An urgent call by the Democratic Alliance (DA) to KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) portfolio committee Chairperson, Ntombikayise Sibhidla Saphetha , to place the issue of the effect of Covid-19 on KZN’s high risk rural communities on the agenda for Friday’s committee meeting has been met with rejection.
The DA’s request is in line with a commitment to playing a proactive role in addressing the Covid-19 pandemic.
While the Chairperson has indicated that the matter will be tabled for discussion at a later date, this is simply not good enough. The reality is that by then it may be too late for many.
It is also extremely concerning that she does not seem to regard the matter as serious or urgent enough to be placed on Friday’s agenda. The DA has urged her to reconsider her unfortunate decision so that MPL’s can discuss the matter with a view to establishing a comprehensive plan to minimise the effects on KZN’s rural communities.
The DA believes that KZN’s rural people are highly vulnerable given that information regarding Covid-19 often does not make its way to them. Furthermore, they are often also far away from medical facilities. In addition to this, our province has some of the highest rates of HIV/AIDS in the world, leaving many people in rural areas compromised and easily susceptible to the virus. KZN also has the highest rates of child malnourishment and stunting in the country which also increases children’s vulnerability to the disease.
Other issues that increase the risk for KZN’s rural people include a reliance on public transport to purchase household goods, an elderly population, high unemployment rates and poor access to clean water and sanitation
The DA had planned to table a number of proactive responses to the virus during tomorrow’s meeting. These include;
• Increasing the number of water tankers available in rural areas
• Identifying high-risk communities and preparing for community spread
• Using the Department’s province-wide networks to assist with distributing important information
• Partnering with NGOs to increase services to rural communities
• Identifying child-headed households in conjunction with the Departments of Health and Education and providing increased support and;
• Working with private ambulance companies to ensure that ambulances are available across the provinces rural areas.
The DA will be submitting a written parliamentary question to DARD in order to examine its response to date to the pandemic. This Department has long struggled to find relevance and even to spend its budgets in full. Covid-19 is an opportunity to now use its resources for the benefit of the people of KZN.
In the interim, the DA urges KZN’s rural citizens to exercise caution and to follow government instructions during these difficult times. We are and will continue to work proactively with government to try to reduce the impact of Covid-19 in rural areas.