by Megan Quinn
ETSU College of Public Health
Munsieville, South Africa
When thinking about public health in the developed world, we generally think about preventing chronic disease through behavior change. However, in Mshenguville (the informal settlement/shack town in Munsieville), the public health needs are drastically different and much more basic. One of the key issues in Mshenguville is the need for basic sanitation/waste management. Illegal dumping around various sites in Mshenguville occurs because people do not think that there other alternatives and do not understand the consequences of poor sanitation.
One particular dumping site is around the community water tap. While this tap provides safe, clean drinking water, the environment surrounding it is ripe with health hazards. The tap is surrounded by waste, including diapers, clothes, and general rubbish and serves as a food source for chickens and dogs. Further, the tap does not have proper drainage and therefore provides a nice source of stagnant water for insects to breed in. Luckily, malaria is not a major issue in this area due to the high altitude, however; other vector borne illnesses could potentially have high infectious rates during the warm summer months. Not surprisingly, local have identified diarrheal diseases as a concern in this area of Munsieville. Poor sanitation in this community elevates the risk for infectious disease, specifically in the vulnerable populations: children and the elderly.
With the assistance of the Councillor for this ward of Munsieville, Thapi Thage, and the local Community Work Program, we completed a community clean-up in this part of Munsieville on Tuesday July 26th. Over thirty people assisted in the clean-up and these efforts could aid over 250 people that live in Mshenguville. However, the clean-up only served as a preliminary effort as we were not able to completely clean the entire area due to the immense amount of rubbish. We need additional long-term, sustainable solutions to aid in providing proper sanitation and waste management to this community.
Feedback from one of the focus groups we conducted with the children earlier this summer will be utilized to provide some solutions to this public health issue. The children independently identified illegal dumping as a health related issue in their community. The following solutions were listed: put a billboard up to signify “no dumping” in that area, put rubbish bins all over Munsieville, form a community worker program, provide a billboard that lists the rules of waste disposal and teaches people to take care of their community, require people to pay for the damage they are causing to their community.
Project Hope UK/The Thoughtful Path will continue working with Thapi and the municipality government to employ the solutions the children listed and provide the appropriate resources for proper waste disposal, including: trash bins for every household, community dumpster, and trash pick-up by the local waste management services. Finally, community meetings in Mshenguville will be held to provide general education on waste disposal and the burden of disease due to improper sanitation, assess the community needs for proper waste disposal, and the barriers to effectively disposing waste. Hopefully these efforts will provide a safe, healthy community and create a sense of pride for the people of Mshenguville and the overall Munsieville public. Providing the basic public health needs in this community will effectively prevent infectious disease and reduce the morbidity and mortality of sanitation related diseases in vulnerable populations.