A damning report has slammed the Eastern Cape health department for its tardiness in reacting to a killer outbreak of diarrhoea that resulted in the deaths of 131 babies in the Ukhahlamba district municipality earlier this year.
The report by the legislature's health committee found there existed "an inexorable causal link between elements of water supply contamination, poor sanitation and hygiene levels, and the diarrhoeal infections" that resulted in the deaths of the babies between January and April this year.
The committee also found that the notice to the community to boil water as a result of the "compromised water purification processes" had only been issued to the public in April 2008 "despite recorded high numbers of diarrhoea-related baby deaths in the preceding months".
The multiparty committee visited the area on May 28.
In addition, the report states there was a failure by the provincial department of health's monitoring and evaluation systems to ensure that monthly meetings of the district health advisory council took place and that "the relevant challenges and measures to deal with them were identified and discussed".
Among its recommendations, the committee has instructed the department to make an effort to collaborate with the relevant stakeholders to ensure a potable water supply in the area, "including rigorous public education regarding water purification and hygienic ways to both access and store drinking water.
"A plan to do this must be furnished to the committee within 14 days." - The Herald