Forced to drink contaminated water for nearly two decades, residents of Tlapeng Village near Taung say the Covid-19 pandemic makes them even more vulnerable.
Existing health challenges
“We have been experiencing water challenges since 1999 and our health is now affected because I constantly have a running stomach and have pains on my waist,” says community member Emmanuel Tong. “When I went to the clinic nurses told me that this pain could be caused by the water we are consuming.”
The village has boreholes but these go dry for weeks, sometimes up to a month in a dry season. When there is no water in their area they have to travel nearly five kilometres on donkey carts to fetch water from neighbouring villages.
Handwashing is an essential part of preventing the spread of the coronavirus, but Tlapeng villagers do not have enough water even for this.
With the Covid-19 pandemic we fear for our lives because we do not have proper access to water. When we do, the water is dirty and we have to boil it before use,” says Tong.
“I have been constantly writing to various government departments but we have received no assistance up to so far,” he adds.
Waiting for assistance
The Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) has taken water samples from Tlapeng Village, but have yet to return the results. The department has distributed 177 tanks and 13 water trucks to the Dr Ruth Segomotsi District Municipality. None of these, have reached Tlapeng village, which falls under the municipality.
The department says it has identified 87,785 households from four district municipalities in the North West province that are to receive 725 water tanks and 50 water trucks. The department’s provincial head Chadwick Lobakeng acknowledges the challenges.
“DWS working together with the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, municipalities and water boards to ensure that the identified households, which do not have water supply, receive it throughout to ensure that we combat the spread of Covid-19,” says Lobakeng.
Long walk to access healthcare services
Water challenges are not the only issues faced by the poverty stricken community. Tlapeng community members have to walk for more than six kilometres to access healthcare facilities and secondary schools. This makes them more vulnerable to the pandemic.
“There are no clinics in our village. The nearest clinic is in Pampierstadt and it closes at 4pm. During weekends the clinic is closed which means that those who cannot afford transport to visit other healthcare facilities are left stranded until Monday. The situation in our area is really hopeless.,” says Tong.
Still waiting for food hampers
Tong says 90% of the community is unemployed and depend on seasonal farm work. Most households depend on social grants for survival.
The village is still waiting for food parcels as part of the Covid-19 relief parcel. Tong feels that Tlapeng Village has been neglected by government. He hopes that they will receive the much-needed relief soon.
The village also has only one primary school, which the community built themselves. There is no secondary school, adds Tong.