The village of Garuele in the Northern Cape has been hit by a severe outbreak of diarrhoea, allegedly from contaminated water supplies, resulting in one death and 150 learners at a school in Mothibistad also being affected.
People in the village first started getting ill at the end of February, said Moletlanye Makatong, who lives in nearby Kuruman but has family in Garuele.
Residents believe the water storage tanks, which hold water pumped from boreholes, were infected.
In addition to the 150 school pupils, at least 37 cases of severe diarrhoea were reported in Garuele, said Department of Health spokesperson Lulu Mxekezo, including one fatality.
Sesi Makatong, 42, died on March 6 after first falling ill on February 28.
Although her family took her to the nearest hospital, Tshwaragano Hospital, 7km away, she was sent on to the hospital in Kuruman as Tshwaragano did not have space for her.
The Kuruman hospital was also full and she was sent back to Tshwaragano where she was given a rehydration mixture to drink and sent back home.
She recovered somewhat, said her niece Kelibongile Makatong, but fell ill again on March 6 and died as the family was preparing to get her back to hospital.
Sesi had one daughter and had also cared for her sister since the death of their parents.
“We are shocked, we don’t know what happened,” said Mothusimang Makatong, Sesi’s grandfather. “People in the village are saying that the water had a funny, sour smell.”
Since the outbreak the water supplier Sedibeng Water, have brought mobile water tanks to the village.
The learners and teachers at the school in Garuele now have their own new supply, and a small tank has been brought to the Makatong family house.
The Makatong family requested a post mortem be done to determine the cause of Sesi’s death. The results will be available on Monday 18 March.
“People are bringing their own water to the funeral,” said Kelebogile, “They don’t trust the water supplies.”
Lulu Mxekezo, spokesperson for the Department of Health, said “stool samples have been taken from two aged patients in hospital for tests and environmental water supplies were collected from the water source in Garuele on 8 March.”
The results are yet to be declared, but promotion on water quality and importance of hand washing with clean water and soap started immediately.
Mothusimang said two men came to test the water on Thursday, “they were not from the municipality. They were European, but they did not introduce themselves.”
“People are still ill,” said Mothusimang on Friday. “They have stopped getting infected, but the illness is still in their system.”
Mapule Georgina Ituleleng, a casualty nurse at the Tshwaragano Hospital, said “we had 26 cases last week, but none this week. The cases were severe and I did hear a lady passed away.” – Katie de Klee