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Water shortages: Mpumalanga clinics running on empty

Water shortages: Mpumalanga clinics take desperate measures
Staff members at clinics in the Dr JS Moroka municipality in Mpumalanga have resorted to using pit toilets because of the lack of running water to flush toilets. (Photo: Freepik)
Written by Precious Mashiane

The Dr JS Moroka municipality community has been forced to take desperate measures as water shortages continue to plague Mpumalanga.

As residents and clinic staff members resort to using pit toilets, the healthcare system struggles to stay afloat, with load shedding only adding to the struggle.

Even though most clinics have boreholes, the ongoing power cuts mean they cannot pump water. As a result, the day-to-day running of clinics in the Matjhiding area has ground to a halt. This has left staff members with no option but to use pit toilets due to water shortages and other maintenance issues.  

Patients share their frustration over water shortages

Trudy Mtshwene, a resident, said that she takes her own water when visiting the clinic. She said that the borehole water is salty and not healthy.

“I take my own water and often share with the less fortunate. Not all of us have the luxury of buying bottled water,” said Mtshwene.  

She said that they have been buying water for a long time since the water tankers in the area aren’t functional.  

While some clinics depend on boreholes, others depend on water tanker systems. According to one employee, the water supply can take up to a month. 

“If we don’t call them constantly, then we won’t have any water in the clinic. And you can imagine what we go through. We must wash our hands regularly, and our patients also need to be hygienic,” said the clinic staff member.

Reservoirs at their lowest

Mmasabata Ramatsetse, Spokesperson for the Dr JS Moroka municipality, listed several contributing factors.

“The Department of Water and Sanitation has placed us under water abstraction restrictions. Our main water source, the Mkhombo Dam, is at 49.3%. Also, the current high temperatures have led to increased evaporation,” said Ramatsetse.

She continued: “Eskom’s load shedding and reduction also contribute to water shortages since our water pump stations are dependent on electricity to pump and purify water. Our reservoirs are at their lowest levels. And vandalism and aged water infrastructure add to the problem. Old asbestos pipes often burst when there’s pressure.” 

“Water demands are high, and our water tankers are limited. Currently, clinics are supplied with water on request since most of them have boreholes in place,” said Ramatsetse.  

Long-term plans in place

She said the municipality has a long-term plan to deal with water shortages. It includes:

  • Building new infrastructure (reservoirs, desalination plant)
  • The construction of new and upgrading of old water sundries
  • Drilling new & refurbishing old boreholes, and reticulation projects
  • Working on alternative energy resources; and
  • The resuscitation of the old Mthombo Dam bulk line to source raw water from Loskop Dam to Kameelrivier raw water.

Dumisani Malamule, Spokesperson for the Mpumalanga Department of Health, said that at least six clinics are being supplied with water weekly. He added that 25 have functional boreholes, and clinics are only affected when the boreholes or tankers break down. Those provided by tankers are affected during load shedding since the functionality of the water pressure pumps depends on the availability of electricity. – Health-e News  

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Precious Mashiane

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