By Wendy Kumar
Recently we took the long drive from Greytown to the rocky rural area of Msinga, located in the Emzweni section in the central part of KwaZulu-Natal. We were there to shoot a story on Multi-drug resistant/ extreme drug resistant tuberculosis (MDR/XDR-TB).
It broke my heart that after 15 years under a democratic government, there are people who are living in difficult situations and conditions like the people of Msinga, particularly in the Emzweni section. The people of Msinga are still lacking basic human requirements, like water, electricity and so on. In order for them to gather water they have to stand in long queues as there is only one borehole for the entire community.
But what hurt me the most was that, despite the high rates of MDR/XDR TB at Msinga, people still find it difficult to get help from clinics and hospitals because they are miles away.
When doing our case study with Zanele Msibi* - who is infected by both HIV and MDR TB - we had to drive for almost two hours from the hospital to her house. While driving from the hospital we came across one clinic, which was also far away from her home.
No access to treatment often ends in death
So many people there are infected by HIV and MDR/XDR-TB and most of them cannot access help and treatment because the clinics and hospitals are far away. Some of the patients we interviewed at the Church of Scotland Hospital said that it's hard for them to get to the hospital as they are unemployed. If they don't get help from their family members or neighbours then they will not go.
"If you eventually do not get money for transport to go to the clinic or hospital you will get sick till you are bed ridden, and at that time you cannot do anything, then you die. Our wish as commuters of this area is to have clinics and hospitals near to us so that we will get access easily," said one of the residents who wished to remain anonymous.
Despite the problems that residents of Msinga face regarding their health issues, I noticed something about the residents of Emzweni. Despite the modernisation that has happened over the past years, they still maintain their cultural practices such as still wearing traditional clothes such as the Kanga (Ibhayi) and beads - even the teenagers, especially the Amabhinca tribe. They are so humble and they have much respect. Everyone that we came across waved at us with big smiles on their faces, even the elders.
The Msinga region has the highest number of drug-resistant TB cases in our country, and most of these patients are HIV+. Although this area is stricken by high rates of unemployment, the residents are trying their best to reach the clinics and hospitals to get treated.
My wish is to see the Department of Health taking the initiative to help these suffering poor residents of Emzweni!
Wendy Kumar is a community journalist working on the TV programme, Siyayinqoba/Beat It!, which screens on SABC1 every Thursday at 13h30. it is repeated on Soweto TV, CTV (Cape Town) and Bay TV (Richards Bay-Empangeni) each Saturday at 11am. The show can also be viewed at www.beatit.co.za