The sun has shone almost every day since flash floods tore through the most populous urban areas of KwaZulu-Natal province in South Africa on April 11, but for many people the suffering continues. Large parts of the eThekwini municipality around the coastal city of Durban remain without water and sanitation and at risk of contracting deadly diseases, with no indication of when these services will be restored.
“What we are now seeing is a clean water supply crisis alongside a sanitation and water treatment crisis, creating the conditions for a potential medical crisis,” said Sean Christie, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) emergency team coordinator. For the last two weeks, MSF teams have been providing medical care and water and sanitation support to more than 30 shelters where thousands of people who lost their homes are staying. Approximately 40,000 people have been left homeless by the floods.
To date, MSF has installed more than 20 water tanks and 60 toilets in shelters that are typically overcrowded and without toilets, running water, and electricity. Gradually, water and sanitation conditions in many shelters are improving, but the situation is far from stable. Living in close quarters without proper sanitation can fuel the spread of waterborne disease outbreaks.