For the past four months since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown, Afesis-corplan has been working with 87 households sharing water and ablution facilities in 35 informal settlements communities across the Buffalo City Metro (BCM) to assess hygiene measures in place to limit the spread of the virus.
Sharing toilets that are dirty and broken increases the threat of human-to-human transmission of the Covid-19 virus and other waterborne diseases like cholera and diarrhea.
How it works is that every second week residents in the informal settlements communities of Duncan Village, Scenery Park, East Bank, Cambridge Location, Mzamomhle, Nompumelelo, Orange Grove, Amalinda Forest, Mdantsane, Bhisho to mention just a few, answer four questions in survey format:
- Is there clean water available in your settlement?
- Were the toilets cleaned in the last seven days?
- Was waste collected in your settlement in the last seven days?
- Has government provided soap or hand sanitizer to you in the last seven days?
The survey is called #Asivikelane [Let’s protect each other] and it is conducted through SMS. The survey has also been launched in five other metros – the City of Johannesburg, City of Ekurhuleni, City of eThekwini, City of Cape Town, Nelson Mandela Metro, and seven smaller towns of Mossel Bay, Witzenberg, Knysna, Umsunduzi, Emfuleni, Cederberg and eMalahleni.
In Afesis-corplan’s case results emanating from the survey are released to the public, BCM management, provincial and national departments to serve as intelligence and to assist in the identification of hotspots areas that may need urgent attention.
When the survey started in March residents reported issues of water being dirty or not always being available, broken taps and toilets, and dirty toilets, while more recently respondents are reporting improved access to clean water, fixed taps, and regular cleaning of toilets. The BCM also installed 40 new toilet seats in May and more in June. In Mzamomhle residents reported receiving four additional new toilets while more water standpipes were installed in Scenery Park.
This is testimony that BCM is using the Asivikelane survey as a dashboard to respond quicker to service delivery challenges like broken toilets and leaking taps based on the information provided by our respondents.
We also know now that BCM has been faring better than its counterparts in the City of Ekurhuleni, City of eThekwini, City of Johannesburg, and City of Cape Town when it comes to the provision of basic services during the Covid-19 lockdown. Until today residents in these metros are still reporting inadequate access to water.
Buffalo City Metro has more than 156 informal settlements, many of them being in existence for decades. Each settlement has its own unique history, but residents in all have shared similar appalling living conditions characterised by lack of basic municipal services – water, sanitation, waste collection, storm drainage, street lighting, paved footpaths, and roads for emergency access – which are all essential for the survival.
It is also in these communities where Afesis-corplan has been advocating for equitable access to basic services for more than 20 years. A few months ago we conducted a study that found in Phola Park informal settlement in Scenery Park that 541 people share 10 toilets (five designated for men and five for women) that is one toilet per 54 people and in the nearby informal settlement of Eskom also in Scenery Park, 598 people share 12 toilets making it one toilet per 50 people. Often times, these toilets were left dirty and broken because residents were unwilling to clean toilets used by many people. The situation with the water provision in these informal settlements was also similar to the toilets because in Ekuphumleni informal settlement in Scenery Park 386 people share amongst them six taps (or 64 people per tap) and in Airport informal settlement in Scenery Park, 302 people shared 16 taps (or 19 people per tap) five of them broken.
While the challenges are dire, we are extremely grateful for the progress the Asivikelane survey has been able to achieve in some of these communities in the last four months alone. Here are some recent advances:
- The Buffalo City Metro is acknowledging the survey and using it as a dashboard to respond swiftly to service delivery issues in informal settlements
- Many communities whose toilets were broken and dirty are seeing them being repaired and cleaned regularly
- Additional communal toilets are being built in Mzamomhle with four new toilets already completed
- Additional standpipes were installed this month in Scenery Park
- 94.6% of respondents reported having received clean water regularly over 2 months
- 83.8% of respondents answered yes to a question about whether their toilets were cleaned
- Toilet cleaners received Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)’s for the first time from the municipality
- 73% of respondents answered yes to a question of whether BCM was regularly collecting refuse in their informal settlements
- Communities who have not received black refuse bags in three years received them in June
- More communities have confirmed receiving bars of soap to wash their hands
- Residents who often clean toilets themselves without disinfectant and protective gear started receiving soap, gloves, masks, disinfectant dip, and hand sanitizers
Through the survey, we are also empowering and educating residents to clean after themselves to alleviate the strain put on cleaners who in most instances do not have cleaning materials and protective clothing and to curb acts of vandalism, destruction, and theft of municipal property.
While important gains have been made there are still communities reporting critical service delivery challenges such as:
- A drain in Beacon Bay – Nompumelelo (Ward 15) has reportedly been blocked for five years and has still not been fixed
- In Mdantsane, Hani Park (Ward 30), toilets were constructed but never connected to a water system
- Cleaning materials not provided in Beacon Bay – Nompumelelo (Ward 15), Gonubie -Mzamomhle (Ward 27) and Leaches Bay – Endlovini (Ward 46)
- The waste collection truck does not go to Mdandatsane, Hani Park Block 3
- Residents of Kanana (Ward 24) burn their own waste as there is no municipal refuse removal service
- One of the residents of Amalinda Forest (Ward 16) had this to say regarding waste collection – “Municipal trucks cannot get in to collect waste because of izinyoka (illegal connection of electricity has live wires everywhere in many streets)”.
Afesis-corplan is implementing the Asivikelane campaign with its partners the International Budget Partnership – South Africa (IBP-SA), Planact, South Africa Slum/shack Dwellers International Alliance, Development Action Group (DAG), Social Justice Coalition (SJC), 1to1 and Grassroot.
In unison, Afesis-corplan and its partners are saying more taps and toilets, along with regular cleaning of these shared facilities, should be a key aspect of the government’s Covid-19 strategy to protect informal settlement communities during the Covid-19 crisis and beyond.
Not only have we used the survey to strengthen our relationship with government and our social partners we have also used it to increase our brand’s presence through media coverage. In its “First 100 Days” the survey was picked up by more than 30 news outlets with a local, regional, national and international focus. We also had more than 516 000 impressions on Twitter and had reached more than 276 000 people on Facebook.
For more information: https://www.internationalbudget.org/covid-monitoring/ and our social media accounts
We have been posting regular updates about the survey under the #Asivikelane.