Cape Town water
Cape Town, South Africa has experienced a drought for the last three years, leading up to what officials are calling ‘Day Zero,’ or the day the city will turn off a large portion of its tap water and turn to rationing the remaining water among citizens. However, water shortage issues began as early as 1995 with little action from the city to remedy the situation.

Water Crisis

What happened in 1995 that caused a crisis over two decades later? The population of Cape Town began increasing and has steadily increased by over three-quarters of its previous population. Fortunately, this multiplication alone was not the cause of the water crisis; rather, it was population growth paired with little increase in water storage.

The city failed to compensate a growing population to its water usage, and while this has made a significant impact on the amount of water in Cape Town, the city has still been able to maintain reasonable water levels despite a lack of added water storage facilities.

This success is primarily due to plentiful rainfall during the monsoon seasons, which may also be why Cape Town has previously failed to increase its water storage for so many years.

Restrictions and Rations

Unfortunately, a drought began in South Africa in 2015 that severely limited the amount of water available to citizens, especially those in Cape Town.

The drought brought to light the water storage issue for Cape Town officials who began urging citizens to conserve the remaining water. They initially asked that each citizen use approximately 87 liters of water before decreasing the amount to a mere 50 liters, or just over 13 gallons, daily.  

The South African government has created a rationing system to be implemented when the water levels decrease to a low enough level. The day this occurs is the day referred to as ‘Day Zero.’ However, in the meantime, the most energy is being placed into reminding citizens to continue to reduce their water usage.

Applications and Online Services

In light of the water crisis, the University of Cape Town has developed a series of cell phone applications that will aid in water conservation. The first is a free application called ‘DropDrop.’

DropDrop allows users to track water usage in real time, helping citizens ensure that they are staying within the city’s new water restrictions. The app is especially useful in areas where regular access to the internet does not exist due to the application’s offline nature after initial download.

Among the services created for Capetonians during the water crisis is an organization, Picup. The group started with the goal of quickly shipping water to Cape Town residents, and now allows Capetonians to order bottled water and receive it to one’s home within 24 hours.

The water can be purchased in two order sizes, with the smallest being 30 liters with an affordable price tag of around 176 Rands, or approximately $13.

City Initiatives

Among the initiatives implemented to conserve water in Cape Town is the initiative started by Cape Town officials that monitors household water usage. The initiative also awards certificates and name recognition on the city website for households showing a 10 percent or higher decrease in water usage.

The city also gives daily updates on water levels for surrounding dams in order to encourage Capetonians in their conservation efforts.

Moving Forwards

Despite the outstanding circumstances Cape Town has faced over the last few years, the future looks bright. With a strong community making huge lifestyle changes to conserve water, the city’s water basins are filling back up and allowing citizens to be a part of a community survival story.

The water crisis in Cape Town has proved the city’s growing wisdom and trendsetting environmental responsibility. This growth has not only set an example for the world to follow, but it has also been the first to prove that any inescapability, even one as drastic as ‘Day Zero,’ can be overcome.  

Alexandra Ferrigno
Photo: Flickr

ATM pharmacies in South Africa Cut Wait Times for Chronically Ill Patients
The suburb of Alexandra, South Africa, is now home to Africa’s first pharmacy dispensing unit. ATM pharmacies in South Africa are expected to have a profound effect on the wait time for patients and the efficiency of clinics.

Simple Solution to Improve Lives

The machine operates as seamlessly as an ATM that dispenses money and completes the transaction in as little as three minutes as opposed to hours. Also known as an “ATM pharmacy,” the unit comes as a convenience to citizens with chronic illnesses, while freeing up space in local clinics. Most importantly, people dependent on medication have another option in receiving repeat medication that does not compromise safety or effectiveness.

The new development comes from experts from nonprofit Right to Care, Right ePharmacy and the Gauteng Department of Health. Right to Care works to provide prevention, care and treatment for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases as well as tuberculosis and cervical cancer.

Developers chose Alexandra as the first location because of its large population, burdened facilities, and level of need, Right ePharmacy managing director Fanie Hendriksz said.

The Need for ATM Pharmacies in South Africa

Innovations like ATM pharmacies in South Africa are a step toward higher-quality healthcare, making it easier for patients to be consistent with their medication schedules. One of the main target groups for this project was people with HIV in need of repeat antiretroviral medicine, as South Africa now has the world’s largest AIDS treatment program.

In addition to being overcrowded, some clinics are also understaffed. Nurses may be referred to other clinics to compensate for lack of staff. HIV/AIDS activist Bhekisisa Mazibuko broke into Kgabo clinic pharmacy to make a point about the outlandish wait times for chronic medications in Tshwane, a city not far from Johannesburg. Some patients start waiting in line as early as 3 a.m.

Mazibuko, who lives with HIV, used a brick to break the pharmacy door after it closed for the day at 4 p.m., not attending to patients who had been waiting for hours. He distributed medicine to hypertension, diabetes and HIV patients before being arrested.

A Way Forward

Patients whose conditions are stabilized are encouraged to use the pharmacy dispensing unit (PDU), although a referral from a doctor is necessary. The patient engages in a simple process of scanning their personal ID and entering a pin and speaking with a pharmacist via video correspondence.

Through this video chat, patients can be advised and directed on how to take the medication and its possible side effects. The patient then selects their medication which is robotically dispensed along with a receipt. The PDU has served more than 4,000 people and dispensed 18,000 prescription medications so far.

According to Right to Care chief executive Ian Sanne, the amount of time South Africans spend waiting in line at health facilities is quite extensive and is damaging to economic productivity. ATM pharmacies in South Africa is likely just the beginning of many healthcare innovations in Africa.

– Camille Wilson
Photo: Flickr

69. South Africa & Madagascar Sign the African Tripartite Free Trade AreaWith the growing appeal of economic integration in Africa, more pressure is being put on state actors to sign the African Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA). This agreement, along with the existence of other regional trade alliances, are a large factor that drives local growth. As of now, 20 of 26 countries have signed the agreement: the latest addition to sign the African Tripartite Free Trade Area agreement are South Africa and Madagascar, in July 2017.

The African Tripartite Free Trade Area namely is meant to bring together partnering members of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), the East African Community (EAC) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC). Most of these 26 countries signed the TFTA into action on June 10th of 2015 in Sharm-el-Sheik, Egypt, representing “48 percent of the African Union membership, 51 percent of continental GDP and a combined population of 632 million“.

As more parties sign the African Tripartite agreement and bring it closer to finalization, they are expected to benefit from a more diversified trade market with a higher proportion of intermediate and value-added products. This will likewise bring in more investments towards infrastructure, connectivity, and production linkages in regional value chains to better integrate into global value chains.

The TFTA Declaration of 2015 focuses on industrial development, infrastructure development, and market integration, and is made up of 45 articles and 10 annexes covering a range of provisions. It intends to liberalize 100 percent of tariff lines by consolidating tariff regimes of the EAC and SADC. These are not extraordinary numbers, as 60 to 85 percent liberalization was agreed upon before entry into the Agreement with the remaining 40 to 15 percent to be negotiated over the ensuing five to eight years.

Secondly, it aims to create a process in which problems that arise with non-tariff barriers can be identified, reported, and resolved through the creation of a sub-committee devoted to this. The Declaration also sets out conditions on goods for preferential rules of origin, plus safety measures on dumping, subsidization and imports surges with the creation of a dispute settling body. Further provisions include those on the elimination of quantitative restrictions, customs cooperation, trade facilitation, infant industries and balances of payments. Most of these are consistent under World Trade Organization obligations and international best practices.

Since the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) Agreement is currently being negotiated alongside the TFTA, this means the TFTA is now part of the acquis of trade integration in Africa so that the CFTA will build off of the TFTA. The CFTA can also prove beneficial as a starting point for dialogue with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and to North and Central African blocs next.

Since the last meeting of the Tripartite Committee of Sectoral Ministers in Kampala, Uganda, previously outstanding annexes have been approved and adopted as the agreement nears its expected entry date of October 2017. Now only 14 more countries need to rectify the agreement, Egypt being the first and only one to do so thus far. This will allow these countries to enjoy a larger, freer and more integrated market with flow of business persons, competitive business and investments throughout Africa.

Zar-Tashiya Khan

Photo: Flickr

Cost of Giving BirthFor something as common and essential as the creation of life, delivering a child can come at quite the cost. Though the United States holds some of the steepest delivery-related costs in the world, many countries around the globe offer maternal healthcare at astronomical prices. These services cater to wealthier families and leave the poor and uninsured to struggle. In rural and low-income communities especially, the high cost of giving birth is very risky for women and newborns.

In many countries, there is a large quality gap between public and private hospitals. Even though there are public hospitals in South Africa, for example, that offer free healthcare services, these facilities often lack adequate equipment and accommodations for mothers and their newborns. One hospital outside of Johannesburg lost six infants around three years ago because it had run out of antiseptic soaps.

Private health facilities typically offer higher-quality healthcare services but at much steeper prices. On average, it costs a woman $2,000 to give birth at a private healthcare facility in South Africa. This is a cost that less than half of South Africa’s population can afford due to large income inequality problem and a widespread lack of health insurance coverage. Families instead settle for menial care or, in some cases, forgo care altogether.

As an alternative to formal care, women commonly hire traditional birth attendants (TBAs) to help with deliveries in rural areas of developing countries like Ethiopia. TBAs lack official training but are more affordable than midwives, who can cost upwards of 2,000 Ethiopian birr, about $90, or even more if a Caesarean-section is necessary. The result is a population that is underserved when it comes to delivery-side medical attention. Only 2 percent of deliveries in rural Ethiopia are administered by a health professional.

Tadelech Kesale, a 32-year-old mother from Ethiopia’s Wolayta province, has suffered due to insufficient care and the exorbitant cost of giving birth. Kesale had her first baby when she was 18 and has since lost three of her six children, one of whom was stillborn. Kesale typically earns two to three birr, equivalent to a tenth of a dollar, each week and was unable to hire a qualified professional for any of her deliveries.

“I gave birth at home with a traditional birth attendant,” Kesale said. “If I could afford it, I would go into a clinic. One of my friends, Zenebexh, died in labor – she just started bleeding after breakfast and fell down dead. A healer came but couldn’t do anything.”

The cost of giving birth in private hospitals in India is similarly prohibitive. Although government facilities hospitalize women and assist with delivery for free, many expecting mothers opt for private facilities for the higher quality of care. These facilities typically charge around $1,165 for basic delivery services $3,100 for Caesarean-section deliveries.

The costliness of Caesarean-sections and other procedures can be deterrents for poorer mothers who are faced with complications during labor or pregnancy. The Guttmacher Institute estimates that only 35 percent of women in developing countries receive the care they need when faced with complications. When such needs go unmet, both mothers and their babies face life-threatening medical risks.

The costs of transport to and from health centers can also be discouraging for expecting mothers, forcing them to deliver at home or in other unsterilized spaces. In rural areas especially, transportation is necessary to travel the long distances to health centers, though it is not always readily available. Aside from being expensive, it can also be scarce; as a result, many women deliver in their houses. When complications arise during delivery, this can be especially perilous.

Though there is no one way to remedy the astronomical cost of giving birth in countries around the globe, organizations like Oxfam are calling on the U.S. and other developed nations to send increased aid to countries with high rates of maternal and infant mortality. This aid can serve mothers and their babies in a myriad of ways, from covering basic health care costs to making it more possible for new moms to take time off from work after delivery. Ultimately, it will mitigate the steep costs many families must meet during and after pregnancy, providing mothers with the assistance they need to have safe, successful deliveries.

Sabine Poux

Photo: Flickr

Human Rights in South Africa
South Africa has been a leader in human rights in the African continent since the end of apartheid. The nation has many protections for civil liberties, but the status of human rights in South Africa has been threatened by government inaction and possible corruption, as well as a rising tide of xenophobic sentiments. Here are nine facts about human rights in South Africa.

Human Rights in South Africa: 

  1. Freedom of expression, religion, and the press are constitutionally protected human rights in South Africa. However, the freedom of media has been a concern after the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) made moves that threatened the credibility of South Africa’s state-run media. ISABC chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng used the SABC to protect the reputation of South African President Jacob Zuma. Motsoeneng accomplished this by banning coverage of violent political protests, firing journalists who criticized the ban, refusing to air political advertisements and directing journalists to cover Zuma positively. Motsoeneng was ordered to step down by the South African judiciary, but he was later rehired in a different role only to once again be forced to step down by the courts two months later.
  2. A recently proposed hate crime bill could further threaten freedom of speech in South Africa. Critics have stated that it’s too broad in its criminalization of hate speech and could severely limit the ability of South Africans to express controversial opinions.
  3. Freedom to peacefully protest and assemble is also a constitutional right in South Africa. While protesters must notify the police ahead of time, they are rarely denied assembly. Recently, skirmishes between student protesters and the police have turned violent, and many have criticized the police for using unnecessary force.
  4. Deaths through police action have declined from previous years, but police violence still remains an issue in South Africa. From 2015-2016 there have been hundreds of reported cases of assault, torture and rape committed by police officers and deaths in police custody.
  5. Since the end of apartheid, South Africa has implemented many anti-discrimination protections. However, the effects are still felt today. Though white people are a minority in South Africa, they still own the majority of business assets and farmland in the region. Opportunities for non-whites remain comparatively restricted.
  6. South Africa has a highly progressive asylum policy for refugees. From 2006-2012, it accepted more refugees than any other nation in the world. Rather than being stuck in camps, refugees in South Africa live in cities and access the same public utilities that South Africans do. Unfortunately, strong anti-immigrant rhetoric and frustrations with South African governance have resulted in many violent attacks against foreigners.
  7. South Africa has failed to provide children with disabilities equal opportunities for education. Disabled children can be denied access to public schools and forced to attend special schools. South Africa has free public education, but parents are forced to pay fees if they have a disabled child in a special school. The UN has recommended that South Africa review its policies to make education more inclusive.
  8. South African law enforces gender equality and women currently make up 42% of National Assembly seats. However, women are often subject to discrimination, paid less than their male counterparts and occupy fewer roles of authority in business. In addition, domestic violence and rape are highly underreported crimes in South Africa. In 2006, President Jacob Zuma faced rape charges that he was later cleared of. The trial elicited concern from anti-rape activists due to the intense heckling of the alleged victim, the cross-examination of the alleged victim’s sexual history and Zuma’s own comments on their sexual encounter.
  9. Nearly 20% of adults and nearly one-third of pregnant women in South Africa live with HIV. The government has made moves to effectively treat its population by improving access to antiretroviral therapy. It also launched a She Conquers campaign that confronts the high rates of HIV in young women and aims to reduce teenage pregnancy.

Human rights in South Africa are pretty well protected. However, working towards an equitable society and holding the state accountable will be necessary for preserving these rights.

Carson Hughes

Photo: Flickr

Mwabu Teaching Academy
Tens of thousands of students in South Africa are not receiving a quality education due to poor teaching. Around 5,000 teachers in the country are underqualified or completely unqualified in their positions. While this is an improvement from the numbers reported in 2015, the amount is still perturbing. Education technology provider Mwabu is launching a Mwabu teaching academy to train teachers on how to better educate their students.

This initiative is important in that educating future generations well can help break the cycle of poverty in poor areas, and good education starts with good teachers. Along with providing interactive learning technology and lesson plans to primary schools, Mwabu has established a teaching academy to offer teachers a chance to learn and enrich their teaching styles. This is done through online training, access to resources and observational visits.

Teachers will have access to resources such as interactive lesson plans, teaching tips, management tools and reporting dashboards. They will be provided with the correct answers to practice questions, allowing them to focus on their teaching of the question rather than finding the right answer. The program also tells teachers the proper amount of time that should be taken to answer each question.

Mwabu established its hub in Rosebank, Johannesburg in June this year. They have since reached 180,000 primary school students. Mwabu has partnered with local electronics manufacturer Onyx Connect to produce tablets for their program. This partnership has decreased the price of the tablets.

Mwabu has launched a home version of its software in Zambia, and the company hopes to introduce it in South Africa as well. The home version works to improve the educational skills of parents so they can help their children with homework and support. Tablets can be used at home, where parents can perform revisions and tests and read with their children.

A study done in the schools using Mwabu’s training in Zambia has shown that 50% of Mwabu-trained teachers use songs, games or stories, while only 25% of non-Mwabu teachers do. Similarly, 40% of Mwabu teachers ask their students follow-up questions when they give the right answer, while non-Mwabu teachers do not. This research shows how the Mwabu teaching academy trains teachers to use engaging, student-centered lessons.

With the Mwabu teaching academy, teachers will be a part of a network of other teachers and educators who strive toward better educational practices. Teachers will be better equipped to educate their pupils, building up a learned and qualified future generation.

Hannah Kaiser

Photo: Google

Poverty in South Africa has been an ongoing problem, despite it being a focal point of the country’s constitution. According to an article from Poverties, the constitution in South Africa states that all citizens should have access to “social security, including, if they are unable to support themselves and their dependants, appropriate social assistance.” Facts and figures in South Africa relating to this issue show that a substantial portion of the country’s population is living in extreme poverty.

An article from the Daily Maverick explained that approximately half of the population in South Africa is living in poverty. In addition, about 21.7 percent of the country’s population is living in extreme poverty, according to the article.

Those living in this state of extreme poverty are often not able to afford food items that meet basic nutritional standards. While a little over half of the population is able to afford enough food, those who fall under this category are still considered to be within the widest definition of poverty in South Africa.

Poverty statistics from 2011 reveal that the number of those living in poverty in South Africa is increasing from year to year. While some data has shown that there may be long-term declines in poverty, missing poverty-reduction targets such as the one set for 2015 shows that South Africa is still far from eradicating poverty in the region.

According to data published by the World Bank, the GNI per capita in South Africa went from $6,090 in 2015 to $5,480 in 2016. The GDP growth was approximately 1.3 percent in 2015 and 0.3 percent in 2016.

The facts and figures in South Africa provided by the World Bank also stated that the poverty headcount ratio at $1.90 a day was approximately 16.9 percent in 2008 compared to 16.6 percent in 2011. While this reduction is good, it is only slight progress.

In 2010, the poverty headcount ratio at national poverty lines was approximately 53.8 percent. Facts and figures in South Africa point towards the future improvement in respect to poverty, though change is fairly slow moving.

Leah Potter

Photo: Flickr

South Africa has one of the highest rates of tuberculosis (TB) in the world. The disease has continued to be the leading cause of death since 1997. Responsible for around 38,000 deaths annually, it remains one of the most common diseases in South Africa, especially in poorer areas where people are not properly vaccinated, cannot afford medical care and do not have access to decent healthcare services.

Tuberculosis is easily spread through the air, and those with a compromised immune system, such as those with HIV/AIDS, are especially susceptible. This puts a large portion of the population at heightened risk as an estimated seven million South Africans have HIV.

A tuberculosis vaccine is available but is usually only for children or young adults at risk. For those who have the disease, a strict antibiotic routine for a minimum of six months is necessary to completely eradicate the bacteria. If the treatment is not followed correctly or completed in full, then the bacteria may become resistant to the drug and even more difficult to treat. It is necessary to educate patients on the importance of finishing treatment and to limit the spread of the disease.

In a recently published study conducted by Dr. Nazir Ismail, the head of the Centre for Tuberculosis at the National Institute of Communicable Diseases, results showed that TB has been on the decline. During the last three years of the 12-year period, the number of new TB cases had dropped between four to six percent annually.

Influenza and pneumonia are other common diseases in South Africa. Together these diseases account for around 22,000 deaths each year, the second highest cause of death in South Africa. Influenza, also known as the flu, is highly contagious from person to person and is a common cause of pneumonia. People infected with HIV are also far more likely to develop pneumonia when they contract influenza.

There are vaccines available for both influenza and some types of pneumonia that are not completely protective. Flu vaccinations change seasonally. Pneumonia vaccines are necessary only once or with a booster. Actual treatment depends on the variation and severity of the disease. Rest and fluids may be enough, but some cases may require antibiotics.

Statistics show that heart disease is a leading cause of death amongst the middle and upper-class populations in South Africa. Gastric diseases, such as diarrhea, cholera and others caused by contaminated water, are more common among impoverished populations.

Even though the death rate from these common diseases in South Africa seems high, the overall mortality rate is decreasing. The country seeks to lower the rate even further through better medical care and treatment of these diseases.

Hannah Kaiser

Photo: Flickr

Wi-Fi is a tool that not only connects people across the globe but also drives the socio-economic development of a region. Tuesday, June 20th marked this year’s World Wi-Fi day, a day that acknowledges and celebrates the importance of Wi-Fi access for everyone. This year, Wi-Fi provider VAST Networks teamed up with network provider Rukus to give out one gigabyte (GB) of free Wi-Fi to all South Africans on VAST’s network.

Although it may not sound like a lot, one GB of Wi-Fi can go a long way. With just one GB, a person can spend 72 hours browsing the Internet, 20 hours watching videos on YouTube, five hours streaming live TV or send or receive 30,000 emails. All these tools provide Wi-Fi users with a means of interaction, education, research or entertainment.

With unemployment rates at an all-time high, Wi-Fi access is necessary for businesses to post available positions and for individuals to search for jobs quickly and efficiently. VAST Network’s free Wi-Fi gave these opportunities to both businesses and individuals at no cost last Tuesday.

VAST Networks CEO Grant Marais says that VAST was founded with the aim to increase South Africa’s global competitiveness through equal opportunities and inclusivity. Providing the country with affordable data rates and creating opportunities for free Wi-Fi serve as investments in South Africa’s future.

Wi-Fi is a powerful tool that has the capability to raise a country and its individuals out of poverty and World Wi-Fi Day recognizes the need for global Wi-Fi access. There exists the possibility for significant and positive change within communities of all kinds through the access and provision of Wi-Fi.

VAST Networks and Rukus show their support of affordable Wi-Fi as a worldwide necessity by giving one GB of free Wi-Fi as well as making their networks reasonably priced and obtainable every day.

Hannah Kaiser

Photo: Flickr

A U.S. global initiative has made significant strides in helping with the HIV/AIDS epidemic in South Africa. The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR, has provided substantial support programs to the African nation including clinical services, HIV counseling and testing and various programs emphasizing treatment to adolescent girls and young women.

The PEPFAR initiative came into effect during the Bush administration, providing the president with declarative powers to help fight HIV/AIDS and other diseases. The program was renewed and expanded in 2008, and its funding was tripled.

In an article published by the Christian Science Monitor, Sharonann Lynch, the HIV and TB policy advisor for Doctors Without Borders, notes PEPFAR as one of the most significant AIDS relief programs in the region.

“It’s not every day in global health where a program gets to essentially say they’ve turned the tide on an epidemic, and that’s what PEPFAR has done,” Lynch said.

Lynch believes that PEPFAR is integral in bringing awareness to the disease and to the possibility of its future eradication across the globe.

“When PEPFAR was announced, you didn’t have anyone talking about ending AIDS – and now that’s exactly what the US and other governments have committed to. They can see it in sight,” Lynch said.

According to a report published on the PEPFAR website, seven million people of all ages were living with HIV in 2015. Approximately 180,000 deaths were attributed to AIDS the same year.

In 2016, the plan and various other partners and organizations contributed HIV testing and counseling to more than 10.4 million people. These programs have also been integral to providing life-saving antiretroviral treatment to more than 3.4 million people.

PEPFAR focuses heavily on women and children affected by HIV/AIDS. The organization provided antiretroviral treatment to 220,626 expectant mothers to reduce the risk of mother-to-child HIV transmission in 2016. The plan has also provided care and support for 407,056 orphans and vulnerable children affected by HIV/AIDS by providing funding to the health and social welfare systems of South Africa.

According to a report published by the CDC, approximately 52 percent of deaths in South Africa were caused by HIV/AIDS in 2006. With the help of programs such as PEPFAR, the number of fatalities has dropped significantly, from roughly one-half to one-third, in South Africa.

Drew Hazzard

Photo: Flickr