Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Unrest in the Masoyi area, near White River

This morning several employees at Mercy Air were not able to get to work because of unrest in the Masoyi area yesterday and today. The protestors are objecting to the slow response of the government to provide adequate water and electricity to their area. Masoyi where the Hands S.A. hub is sited, has a population of a quarter of a million people and is the informal settlement near White River. Unemployment rates are very high as are levels of HIV infection. Most of the side roads are still dirt roads so that accessing them to supply water and electricity is difficult. President Zuma has referred to the service delivery difficulties in his state of the nation address last week. This may have prompted this protest and roads have been closed by the police.

The road to the School of Health department of Africa School of Missions was still open (Peebles Road) though the road is closed beyond that into Masoyi.  Numbi gate is closed which will affect tourists planning to visit Kruger National Park. I assume also that Hands village on the Peebles Road will be affected as the staff there may be unable to visit the communities they support in the local area.

Cathy and her colleagues teach the student nurses at ASM and provide a clinic for local people. People of all ages come to the clinic with whatever medical needs they have. There is no appointment system and people wait to be seen on a first come first served basis. (Unless there is an emergency of course.) The nursing staff refer on to the hospital as appropriate.
At this clinic the student nurses get the clinical experience they need under the guidance of their teaching staff. Most of this year’s cohort come from the local community…Masoyi…..and will probably work in their community when they qualify.

On Wednesdays, medication and medical equipment is loaded into a trailer and is taken to a private farm in the Kiepersol/Hazyview area. Here the staff and students see employees from the farm (a banana and avocado farm) and their families. Anyone in need of anti-natal care, HIV/AIDS advice and treatment or other medical needs can access the service provided they can get the time off work.
It is here that we have met the migrant workers, the men and women who live and work 20 or 30 km away from their families only returning to their families once a month for a long weekend. The housing is very poor and overcrowding is common.
Pre-school children stay with their mothers on the farm and are cared for during the day by child care workers. As soon as the children reach school age they stay with family….if they have any…..back in their home community as there are no schools available for them near the farm. The mother continues to work on the farm; this leaves her school-age children vulnerable in the home community. These might then become the vulnerable children we visit alongside the orphans in the villages.

Last year I met a lady,let’s call her Mary. She was lying on the floor with severe abdominal pain. She had four children living at home in Bush Buck Ridge (about 30 km away) with her brother while she worked on the farm. She had no parents to care for her children only her brother. She saw her children only once a month and she said it was hard. She was in a lot of pain and was assessed by the nursing staff and then an ambulance was called to take her to hospital. We don’t know the outcome as follow up is impossible unless the person can return to the clinic to let the nurses know how they are and this is unlikely.
The mobile clinic is vital for maintaining the health of the farm workers because they would be unlikely to travel off the farm to access the clinics in the town.

Tomorrow, Cathy would normally meet her colleagues at the Mobile Clinic on the farm but if, as expected, more roads are closed, the clinic will have to be cancelled. Not only will the trailer be unable to leave ASM but some student nurses and interpreters who rely on buses and who live in Masoyi will also be unable to get to work.

It is very hot here and we have access to hot and cold running water at Mercy Air but 15km away people are protesting because so many of them have an inadequate water supply. Who can blame them for protesting?