Sunday, September 27, 2020

Gweta is sinking in mud

Hardly a month after the floods that ravaged Gweta, Zoroga and Nata, more evidence is surfacing to reveal that things are not getting any better. The number of people who have neither shelter nor food is increasing daily.

Kgosietsile Maripe, Disaster Management Officer at the Botswana Red Cross Society, said: “What makes the situation even more complex is the fact that almost four weeks since the floods invaded the area, assessment and provision of basic needs is still confined to Gweta and, as for Zoroga and Nata, the number of people in need of tents and other support is still to be determined.

Maripe said that although it has been raining lately, the flood water is stagnant and is still covering vast areas of land thus making it totally impossible to reach the lands and the cattle posts by motor vehicles. He further stated that, since the rainy season is not yet over the situation still remains potentially fluid, and could became more complete.

According to a report by the social and community development Office in Gweta submitted to the Natural disaster Management Office, at least 145 huts collapsed at the onset of the disaster, as a large number of residential structures were either submerged in water or were destroyed by the force of the flood.

Acting Director of the National Disaster Management Office, in the office of the President, Nkosiyabo Moyo, highlighted the magnitude of the situation, in an interview with The Sunday Standard.
“Although the rains stopped and only come occasionally,” he said, “the damage continues due to the water that was all over the village.”

Additionally he said that “some houses crack due to the heat”. Moyo further said that the affected people were evacuated to the Community Hall and Day Care Centre, while some residents were supplied with tents and some opted to stay with relatives.

Moyo acknowledged that the number of people who will remain homeless is likely to increase as more huts continue to collapse whilst an equally large number of huts was left with bad cracks and are obviously vulnerable to collapse.

Information turned up by Sunday Standard investigations has revealed that, due to the overflow and spillage of effluent from the sewage ponds, and the resultant contamination of boreholes which are only a few meters from the sewage ponds, water in the area is in short supply as the authorities had no choice but to shut down the boreholes.

One hospital official, who declined to be mentioned by name, informed this paper thus: “In the Hospital, as in all clinics, water is very essential and yet not just any water but running water in particular. During delivery operations, the situation is even more compelling.”
Furthermore, the official stated that the Hospital serves as a treatment centre for T.B. patients, admits HIV/AIDS patients who need special care and helps with delivery of pregnant women who would otherwise be endangered by long travel referrals to either Maun or Francistown Hospitals but without water, it’s really hard to explain how we manage.”

The Botswana Red Cross official expressed concern that the health and sanitary situation in Gweta and surroundings villages is made more problematic by the fact that there are few pit latrines in the village and that the majority of people resort to the bush.

The fact that the sewage pump is not working and that the spillage continues to spread in the open, stagnant water on the western side of the village and into the village, which also embraces the boreholes, is feared to expose the community to more health hazards.

Maripe expressed concern that although the affected areas are naturally malaria prone zones, there will be an increase in malaria cases because of stagnant water and the overspilling effluent. Other water borne diseases are also feared.

Sunday Standard has been able to establish on authority that the government has provided 17 portable toilets. The toilets were delivered a day before President Mogae’s visit to the area, and they provided much needed comfort for the well attended kgotla meeting on that day.

Gweta is estimated to have a population of 7000 people. Information availed to Sunday Standard indicated that the short supply of water has resulted in the disruption of water borne systems at the only Secondary school in the area, the Hospital, Clinic, Primary school and other Government staff houses all of which can no longer use flushing toilets.

The society is currently experiencing serious financial constraints such that it has been unable to keep volunteers and staff at the scene. Consequently, it has not been possible to conclude the vulnerability and needs assessment on time. What complicates intervention further is the absence of air transport to airlift those who are trapped in inaccessible areas.

The constraints notwithstanding, the society has donated food, water purifying sachets and jerry cans for water shortage. These provisions are however still far from adequate, according to the Red Cross officials. In addition 160 blankets, disposable nappies and toiletry to 225 people in Gweta, 30 blankets for Nata and 13 blankets for Zoroga have been distributed by the society.

Lately, Moyo was quoted in one of the local papers as saying the situation was under control whilst another official in the area presented a different picture.
Sunday Standard has established that the contradictory responses by the officials may have sent a wrong message to the BRCS donors, who might think that the situation is under control and so requires little or no serious financial commitments.

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Sunday Standard September 27 – 3 October

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of September 27 - 3 October, 2020.