South Africa: Strandfontein Homeless Camp Poses Health Threat, Doctors Warn

Hundreds of homeless people have been moved to the City of Cape Town’s temporary site at the Strandfontein Sports Grounds, as part of the response to COVID-19. Upon arrival, people are screened for the novel coronavirus. There are no other health services for the many underlying health issues, including mental health, substance dependency, and chronic illness. There are many people in the camp with chronic illnesses, such as HIV and TB, and there is no identifiable way that people with these conditions can get access to treatment. There is no protective equipment, such as masks, and there is one basin at each marquee for people to wash their hands.

A lawyer says the situation at Strandfontein creates a high risk and threatens the health and well-being of the homeless as well as the Strandfontein community.

An assessment carried out by a team under the auspices of the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) indicated the site at Strandfontein sports field serving as a temporary shelter for homeless people is overcrowded, not properly ventilated and posed a continued risk.

According to Dr Giles van Gutsen of Doctors Without Borders, the single largest threat is that these unsatisfactory living conditions could increase the spread of the coronavirus. His remarks were part of the findings and recommendations contained in a report handed to the SAHRC.

Van Gutsen's concerns came in the wake of an oversight visit on Saturday 18 April by leaders of opposition parties. SAHRC commissioner Chris Nissen facilitated the meeting and Van Gutsen was one of the members present at the site. However, Faiez Jacobs, ANC member for Greater Athlone, and members of the FF+ were denied access to the camp by law enforcement officers.

According to Jacobs, Cape Town Mayor Dan Plato and City of Cape Town Mayco Member for Safety and Security JP Smith had been invited but...

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