03 October 2019

'Imagine giving birth in the back of a bakkie in the middle of the road, in the rain'

Residents in rural Limpopo are struggling to access health care services because of poor road conditions.

"I thought I was going to die together with my son. Imagine giving birth in the back of a bakkie in the middle of the road, in the rain?" says Takalani Phophi (28). 

“The most painful part was knowing that the ambulance was on its way but due to the bad condition of our roads, it only arrived after I had given birth.”

The mother of three has described the poor condition of gravel roads in Makwarani, and surrounding villages outside Thohoyandou as a stumbling block between villagers and access to essential medical services because they struggle to get to their local clinic.

“I can never wish what I experienced last week to happen to any woman. [The bakkie] couldn’t move… [on] the poor road. It will take time to forget about the incident, but I’m happy that I’m alive, and my son is healthy,” says Phophi.

Empty promises 

Before the national elections earlier this year, Makwarani residents and surrounding villages were promised that damaged roads would be fixed as a matter of urgency but nothing has been done since then.

It means residents are unable to easily travel.Public transport has ceased to operate in the area because of the damaged roads, forcing residents to walk about 20km to get to the local clinic. “The ambulance [drivers said] they took time because of the bad condition of the road. But I don’t blame them because anyone can see that this road is not suitable for any vehicle and is something we have been complaining about to the local municipality for years,” says Phophi.

Walking is the only choice 

“It hurts me when I see elderly people, including my mom, who are forced to walk over 15–20km to collect their chronic medication from the clinic because they can’t even catch a taxi.

"Most have stopped operating in our village because of the roads. It pains me when they have to start walking as early as 04:00 to get to the clinic on time,” says Gudani Magau.

They’ve been raising the issue with government for years, adds Magau. “We have even written letters to the Department of Health to at least consider building another clinic which will be situated within a reasonable walking distance.” He says they are pleading with government to fix roads before it gets worse with the rainy season.  

However, according to the local municipality, the Department of Public Works is responsible for the maintenance of the roads in these areas. Media liaison officer, Mamoshashe Mabotha says they will investigate what led the deterioration of the roads.

– Health-e News

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