COVID 19 – what about us?
ByMzansi Agriculture Talk NewsPosted on March 31, 2020
A day before the Presidential lockdown announcement, a sea of urbanites lined at bus stations to flock back home to the rural areas.
First to raise concern over this mass flocking was Limpopo Health MEC Phophi Ramathuba.
“We are appealing to you to protect our parents by staying where you are now and reduce the number of movements.”
MEC Ramathuba clarion call barely scratched the surface.
Rural areas by design where confined to communal chiefdoms coupled nearer to commercial farming areas usually surrounded by tin huts households. The main labour activity in these areas was farming.
Confronted by this mass flocking, health experts are raising alarm over such movements to rural areas igniting a spark and spread of COVID-19.
According to the Rural Doctors Association of Southern Africa (RuDASA), health care workers and facilities to care of rural people were inadequate.
“The rural population basically accounts for about 42% of healthcare services and we only have about 15% of doctors looking after rural care and 20% of nurses” said RuDASA Dr Lungi Hobe talking to SABC News.
This has sharply raised concerns over South Africa’s food providers i.e. farmers and farm workers.
Currently, it was a norm that most farm workers lived in squalor conditions with many having little access to basic sanitary essentials.
The amendment of Disaster Management Act was supposed to cover for the untimely affection of essential service workers, but it was vague in this instance.
Minister responsible for Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development Thoko Didiza attempted to assure the nation that farmers and farm workers safety would be prioritised.
“The codes of good practice for production and agro-processing facilities have been made available to the industry. The safety of our farmers and farm workers on and off work is very important to us.”
Amidst the concern, the Minister said her department and provinces will procure masks, sanitizers and gloves for farmers and farm workers. This was however not enough with fears that rural health care facilities would be overwhelmed.
Furthermore, issues of water scarcity in rural areas also added to farmers and farm workers health concerns.
The Department of Water and Sanitation provided no clarity on how government will assist rural areas especially those ravaged by drought.
Speaking on Power FM, Minister of Water and Sanitation Lindiwe Sisulu said her department had procured 19 000 of water tanks with some of these to be installed on or near the land of tribal chieftaincies.
Calls for government to heavily subsidise the agricultural sector was receiving loud reception especially coming after the Moody’s downgrade bloodbath to the economy.