Cholera: Preying on Poor and Weak
World Press Review; 13
Heide, Lolke van der
Cholera is raging through the little eastern South African coastal town of Eshowe as it sits submerged in the damp sub-tropical greenery of sugar cane. Identified as one of the epicenters of the fierce epidemic that has sweeping through the KwaZulu-natal province for the past six months, Eshowe is a textbook example of how cholera is spread from fouled water. Cholera is spread through drinking water contaminated by Vibrio comma, a bacteria that breeds in human waste. As soon as the outbreak was reported, it caught the attention of the Ministry of Water Affairs and Forestry, which has in recent years taken great strides to jumpstart the standard of living for even the poorest regions by installing electricity, telephones, and waste purification systems. But despite the focused efforts, funding, drug supplies, and hospital provisions, thus far no significant progress has been made in controlling cholera. Eshowe's physician, Dr. Kevin McDonald, commented that the cholera, HIV, and sexually transmitted disease outbreaks are the most significant health issues facing Africa right now, as they remain intertwined, even through death, as people too ill from AIDS become too weak to fight off cholera. In the town of Alexandra, where residents use the De Jukskei River for both toilet and drinking water, the government tried to force a portion of the population to relocate until the river could be cleaned up, but to no avail. McDonald feels that despite the very best initiatives by the government, cholera will be prevalent for a long time in the region, due to illiteracy and a difficulty in changing lifestyles that have only known one unclean habit.