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Children’s home enters fourth month with no water

Botha’s Hill children’s home, iKhethelo Children’s Village, faces their fourth month without water.

THE NPO houses 44 children from the ages of two to 21 years old. Along with the stress of sourcing sufficient drinking water for their charges, the lack impinges on cooking, washing clothing and linen, bathing and flushing toilets.

According to Graeme Wright, the CEO of iKhethelo Children’s Village, some of the children in their care are immune-compromised. Unsanitary conditions due to the unsatisfactory water supply could harm the health of these specific individuals.

How has the lack of water affected the residents?

Wright says, “Fortunately, due to the infrequent visits from the water tankers, we do have a little bit of water, but we must ration it or we’ll use it all up and have nothing. We allow water to be used for an hour and a half in the morning and for two hours in the evenings. The children aren’t washing themselves properly, and we can’t flush the toilets. Our hygiene and cleaning abilities are impacted, and it’s not a healthy situation as we have immune-compromised children.”

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How did it start?

Wright says the issues started after the April floods.

“On May 9, we had no water at the children’s village. We reported it multiple times. A month later, in June, the municipality said they’d fixed it. We tried the taps, and there was nothing. We were told to wait for air pockets to be flushed from the pipes. Then a trickle of water came through, but the pressure seems to be extremely low, and the water is not reaching the houses,” says Wright.

Wright says the municipality stated that the water issues in the children’s village are due to multiple leaks in the area.

“There are many leaks outside the village at the top of the road, and the municipality tried to fix them. They say we have issues at the village due to so many leaks nearby, but we’ve never experienced this before. They say it’s sorted, but we don’t have adequate water coming through the taps,” he says.

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Wright says he and his maintenance staff have checked the village infrastructure themselves.

“We’ve checked the pipe from our side, and it works well. When the tanker water is pumped through, the water reaches the houses. There seems to be a pressure problem from the infrastructure exterior to the home, as when the municipality water supply is turned on, the water trickles through before stopping completely,” says Wright.

What measures has the home put in place?

The home made contact with the municipality tankers which distribute water in the area.

“The tankers have been intermittent. We are lucky to have rainwater harvesting tanks, but it hasn’t rained for a while, which left us relying heavily on water tankers. We keep reporting the issue to the municipality, and they say they’ve fixed it, but they haven’t. The pressure is insufficient to get the water up to the kids’ houses, which are situated on a hill,” he says.

Although Wright has staff members almost permanently reporting via telephone, email, or WhatsApp, no municipal workers have visited the children’s home since May, although they undertook some repairs outside the village in June.

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“We told the phone operators that over 60 people live on the property, including our employees, and 50 of those are vulnerable children, many with low immune systems. This situation is detrimental to their health. They told us we were bumped up to priority and then we never heard from them again, which has happened repeatedly for almost four months now,” says the CEO of the village.

What are the long-term implications for the home?

Wright maintains that in addition to potentially damaging the pipe work and geysers in the village, as an NPO relying solely on donations, the extra costs incurred in securing water for daily use have placed an unnecessary financial strain on the organisation.

The municipality was unavailable for comment at the time of going to press.

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