Census 2011: The poor

2012-11-03 18:52

President Jacob Zuma’s home patch of Nkandla in rural KwaZulu-Natal ranks among the worst areas in the country, where children are dying and where basic services are lacking.

Media24 Investigations mapped municipalities across South Africa in which the deaths of children under the age of five as a proportion of all deaths in an area is up to twice the national average.

This data was then matched to areas where access to key services – such as municipal piped water and proper toilets – are also behind the national curve.

In Census 2011 data, 12 municipalities with below-average access to sanitation services had a significantly higher-than-average percentage of deaths of children under five; among them Nkandla and others in KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Cape, North West and Mpumalanga.

On this measure, uPhongolo in northern KwaZulu-Natal was the worst, with some 22% of all deaths coming from the under-five age group in an area where nearly 60% of households don’t have piped water, 30% of households have no formal toilets, and 70% have no formal refuse removal.

Nkandla, where Zuma’s homestead is, also ranks among the worst. Deaths of under-fives amounted to 20% of all deaths there.

The census also shows: 62% of households rely on boreholes, rivers and springs, among things, for water; 14% have no formal toilet; and almost no one has a refuse removal service.

The Nkandla clinic’s Dr Joash Naidoo said: “People are having a lot of babies which they have to feed, and because most of the population is unemployed, children are not getting the right nutrition. There are a lot of preventable deaths here. Water is a secondary problem to the main issue of giving children the right foods.”

The presidency did not reply to requests for comment.

In Nongoma, 150km from Nkandla, Mayor Jeremiah Mavundla said: “The high death rate of babies was an issue before but now we are trying to address the issue. This is a deep rural area, far from any health services. It take mothers months to get to a clinic to immunise their babies.

The issue of water is also a problem.

If people aren’t getting enough clean water, then their lives will be at risk, especially young children.”

Cyril Myaka, the social programmes manager of the Zululand District Municipality, into which several of the councils fall, agreed that babies were dying because mothers were not visiting clinics often enough.

On the issue of sufficient water, he said: “The municipality does deliver water tankers once or twice a week, but this is not enough for the village.”

In Port St Johns, in the former Transkei, the picture is also dire. Some 18% of all deaths are under-fives and basic services are far behind the national norm.

Census figures show 80% of households there rely on a non-municipal water supply and the number of people without proper toilets is far higher than the national average.

In the latest Blue Drop water safety and quality report by the water affairs department, Port St Johns’ water supply to more than 150 000 people scored jaw-dropping lows.

Mayor Danisile Mangqo said: “There is no water in some areas and in town the septic tanks built years ago are under immense pressure from the growing population.

Dr Richard Cooke of the Rural Health Advocacy Project said: “The bottom-line is the importance of promoting exclusive breast-feeding as the best option for mums ... unhygienic practices linked to formula feeding are dangerous, and poor quality water and sanitation services in the community can exacerbate this problem.”

» Have you checked out our Census 2011 digital tool? Go here to explore key census data yourself.

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