Day Zero concerns for disabled community

2018-02-06 06:01

While the City of Cape Town is slowly coming to grips with the reality termed “Day Zero”, disabled people and organisations are starting to buckle up for a bumpy ride.

Kaltoemah Joseph has been a social worker at Cape Town Association for the Physically Disabled for five years and oversees clients in Manenberg, Surrey Estate, Heideveld and the greater Athlone, and she is concerned that those the association serves will be hardest hit.

“I was told on Tuesday that clients were calling me to tell me that there was no water and that they had no access to water, and that they were lying in bed and did not know what to do. I did not know if they had been notified about the water being cut,” she says.

This only served as a stark reminder of what lies in wait come 11 May (according to the latest update regarding Day Zero).

Special arrangements will be sought for vulnerable, elderly and disabled people, according to a Day Zero document released by the City of Cape Town last week.

“We are engaging with national government, provincial government, businesses, communities and NGOs to support us to care for our most vulnerable residents, such as the elderly and those with disabilities, during this time,” says Mayco member for informal settlements, water and waste services and energy, Xanthea Limberg.

Meanwhile, Joseph feels that the needs of disabled people are more immediate.

“There are clients who are on catheters and other bags and people will dirty themselves, so how can people get access to water if they find themselves in that situation? There are people who are lying sick in bed. Not all the people we facilitate are able to move. They can go to the hospital, but what if they need water, how do they go to the bathroom? How can they flush? Those who are in bed at home, where would the people get water for them to help them? If I am one social worker in the area, can I go to all the people to collect water for them? No!”

Limberg says the City is also setting up information sessions with neighbourhood watch groups, NGOs, religious organisations and community groups in order to help clarify their role in ensuring that all people are able to access their 25F of water per day.

“Ensuring that the persons described above are able to access water during this time will require a massive coordination effort from government and civil society. As part of the information sessions, we will be asking partners to gather information on extremely vulnerable persons in the areas where they operate.

“There will be a wide-scale call to action for these organisations to volunteer to collect water for vulnerable persons,” she adds.

Limberg adds that subcouncils and ward committees have a duty to help identify vulnerable people in their areas and align these with local civil society organisations that can assist them during this time of crisis.

Joseph is also concerned that vulnerable groups of people will be targeted and exploited by those seeking opportunities.

“I am just looking at it from another point of view, because if the disabled people have to be somewhere, they have to pay, so what if people are going to start charging them to go fetch the water?”

Limberg explains that while able-bodied people have to find their own way to and from collection points, they should also keep vulnerable people in mind when collecting water.

“Public transport will be available as usual. Other distribution mechanisms are being investigated. We are selecting sites to try and provide reasonable access to as many residents as possible and are talking to civil society about ways to assist vulnerable people,” she explains.


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