Access to services improve, but their affordability is still an issue

2012-10-31 00:00

CENSUS 2011 shows significant increases in access to basic services, but affordability of these services remains a major issue. Mervyn Abrahams of the Pietermaritzburg Agency for Community Social Awareness said the next census could show a different picture. “If people could not afford services, they wont be able to access them,” Abrahams said.

He noted that access to electricity stood at 77,9% in KZN, but only 69% of households used electricity for cooking purposes. 20% of households in KZN still use candles to light the house. As electricity usage increases, people move away from more dangerous forms of energy such as wood and paraffin. “We therefore have to assume that the reason why not all households with access to power use electricity for cooking is because the cost of electricity is unaffordable for them,” he said.

Abrahams said the statistics showed that infrastructural access to electricity (a pre-paid meter box and the connection) was not the same as being able to afford electricity.

He added that the connection between poverty and disease continued.

“Only 45% of households in KZN have access to flush toilets, with 6,3% having no access at all. These people who number about 616 000 live mainly in informal settlements. 38% of KZN households have their own refuse dump and do not get municipal refuse collection. The interconnection between poverty and disease is clear because these feed off each other.”

He added that what hadn’t changed since the last census was that the face of poverty still remained that of black women. “Unemployment is highest amongst African women; the average household income of a female-headed household is about half that of a male-headed household.

“While we welcome the socioeconomic advances, much work remains to eradicate poverty and inequality, including gender inequality, in our society,” Abrahams said.

• nalini@witness.co.za

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