Seven farmworkers succumb to heat stroke: Gift of the Givers to the rescue in blistering Kakamas

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Gift of the Givers team arriving in Kakamas, Northern Cape.
Gift of the Givers team arriving in Kakamas, Northern Cape.
PHOTO: Supplied by Gift of the Givers
  • The Gift of the Givers Foundation is currently in the Northern Cape town of Kakamas, responding to a request for water tanks and bottled water.
  • Seven people have died of heat stroke in the region.
  • Farm owners and managers are urged to provide adequate water refreshments and short breaks to farmworkers during the harvesting season.

The Gift of the Givers Foundation is busy assisting the community of Kakamas in the Northern Cape with additional water tanks after heat strokes resulted in the death of seven farmworkers being recorded in two days.

According to the disaster relief group, it was responding to requests for assistance from the mayor and community leaders after the seven succumbed at the Kakamas Hospital.

Five farmworkers died on Thursday and two on Friday morning.

According to the provincial department of agriculture, environmental affairs, rural development and land reform, one hospitalised farm worker is on a ventilator.

Gift of the Givers project manager Ali Sablay said that a request for bottled water and JoJo tanks was received on Friday evening.

"The combination of rising temperatures and load shedding has resulted in compromised water delivery, thereby impacting hydration levels in the community," he said.

"Although the municipality has a water source, the need for additional JoJo tanks to increase water availability in multiple areas has been identified."

Local MEC Mase Manopole said the province, like other parts of the country, was experiencing extremely hot temperatures in most of its districts.

READ | Heat wave claims lives of 5 people in Northern Cape

She urged farm owners and managers to provide adequate water refreshments and to offer short breaks to farmworkers during this harvesting season.

"Farmers are also expected to provide sunscreen lotion and protective gear such as hats and lightweight loose clothing to their workers," Manopole said.

"We are assembling a team… comprising of our department, [as well as] the departments of employment and labour [and] health, to visit farmers who are affected."

Minister of Employment and Labour Thulas Nxesi said inspectors have recommended that farm workers work from 04:00 to 11:00 and then resume work from 17:00 to 19:00. 

"According to the department’s inspectors, every employer is expected to conduct a risk assessment of the workplace, and when any of the identified risks changes, an employer needs to introduce mitigating measures.

"Especially in this instance, where there is a risk of temperatures rising in the region of 51 degrees Celsius," Nxesi said.

The Gift of the Givers team, led by Emily Thomas, has already arrived in Kakamas and providing assistance to help alleviate the crisis.

Thomas said that the foundation was aware of the water problems throughout the Northern Cape region, as they had been receiving numerous calls from residents.

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