Fleeing Foreigners in South Africa Face Illness Threat: Doctors

by VR Sreeraman on  May 25, 2008 at 11:09 AM Tropical Disease News   - G J E 4
Thousands of foreigners fleeing attacks in South Africa face the threat of illness as they are forced to camp out in the cold after being chased from their homes, Doctors Without Borders said Saturday.
 Fleeing Foreigners in South Africa Face Illness Threat: Doctors
Fleeing Foreigners in South Africa Face Illness Threat: Doctors

The organisation's programme director in South Africa Muriel Cornelius told AFP they had seen fewer cases of violent injuries recently, but increasing numbers of people had to be treated for respiratory infections and diarrhoea.

"You see less violence-related wounds but more and more cold-related and poor sanitation-related pathologies," said Cornelius.

She said a political decision had to be taken on what to do with the displaced people, estimated to number about 25,000.

"There is really a need for a decision on where they should be accommodated, You still have people with no roof above their heads, sleeping outside under the stars with just a blanket."

Two weeks of anti-immigrant violence have sent thousands fleeing to the safety of community centres, police stations and other sites that have sprung up to deal with the growing crisis in South Africa.

Now as the violence subsides, aid organisations and government face a dilemma over what to do with those who have been displaced.

"Most of the sites have reached saturation capacity," Cornelius said.

"Whatever solution is found needs to cater for a dignified answer and cater for basic human needs."

Cornelius said on Thursday 300 people had been treated for "cold or displacement related" illnesses in one afternoon.

"If you go to Jeppe (police) station, there are two big tents, one for women and children, where about 100 people are staying, and one with more than 200 men.

"Then you have about 1,000 sleeping on the grass or staircase just wrapped in blankets," she said of a police station in central Johannesburg where many have sought refuge.

Sanitation and lack of water at these sites had also proved a major challenge for aid workers.

Source: AFP

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