KNYSNA NEWS - "We are already dead; we don't fear the coronavirus because our lives are already over."
This was the response from Phelandaba informal settlement committee chair Linda Sikwebu on Monday 23 March, referring to President Cyril Ramaphosa's call to wash hands regularly and keeping the social distance.
Phelandaba has one tap for more than a hundred people, no toilets and people use the bush to relieve themselves.
For these people it is already a struggle to get water to drink, they say, and getting water to wash their hands regularly is impossible.
Speaking to Knysna-Plett Herald on Monday, Sikwebu said if one of their residents were to get the virus, it would spread through the area like wildfire. "This place has no services and when the virus gets here, we will be the first people to die. We are already at risk of other illnesses because of the appalling conditions we are living under. No one came to here to educate people about the virus," said Sikwebu.
He said social distancing from people while they are all packed in a one-room shack is impossible. "We don't have toilets inside our shacks and we don't have rooms where we can keep people in isolation. If one of us is affected, all of us will get the virus," he said.
Sikwebu added that there are shacks where "more than five people are sleeping in the one-room shack, there is no privacy and no space."
Another resident, Viwe Thonga, concurred: "We are struggling to get water to drink here, how much more difficult would it be to get water to wash our hands regularly. Where will we get the money to buy the soap as people are not working," he said.
Thonga added that as businesses are closing in town, more people will come to the settlement exposing them to the same bad conditions. "If one of them is infected the numbers will increase within a day," he said.
According to resident Khuselwa Ngubelanga, everyone in the informal settlement is scared of the virus but they don't know how to protect themselves. "Even if we are told to stay at home, we will starve and die of hunger. Our places are small and we don't have enough space at our homes," she said, adding that without toilets and enough water for the whole area, the fight against the virus will not be won.
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