Statistics from the 1996 Water Research Commission report undertaken in conjunction with Umgeni Water of KwaZulu-Natal revealed that at least 650 people die every day in South Africa from diarrhea, most of them children. Of particular concern is that a bacterium Shigella dysenteriae has reappeared after an absence of more than 100 years.
The report further revealed that 95% of the rural inhabitants do not have safe and adequate sanitation facilities. 65% of the patients in the rural hospitals have contracted some form of waterborne disease stemming from bad sanitation contaminating the water sources.
The present cost of hospitalizing a patient is approximately R500 per day, which results in a short-term direct annual expenditure of R5-billion with a total annual cost to the country estimated at R15-billion.
The report emphasized and was supported by “International experience has shown that the provision of sanitation is most effective when the programmes are headed and implemented by small, dedicated groups from local communities” and further emphasized “In addition to being in sanitation provision, the groups should provide educational programmes to inform the community about hygiene as well as use and maintenance of toilet systems”
This report was published in 1996 and the situation has declined considerably with the mortality rate closer to 1000 per day, mostly children. This problem is compounded with the advent of HIV/Aids as these sufferers’ immune systems are fragile and they are at greater risk of contracting these diseases, further adding to the demand on our already overloaded health care system.