Aids patients starve in KZN

Mhlaba Memela

Mhlaba Memela

A hundred thousand HIV and TB patients are going hungry in KwaZulu-Natal since a provincial food programme ground to a halt because of bureaucratic bungling.

The health department introduced the programme in 2006 to help more than 100000 patients who are HIVpositive, have TB or other chronic diseases.

According to the department the programme entailed providing free vitamin-enrichment porridge "to save lives and prevent the hungry from taking medication on empty stomachs. The scheme also alleviated the side effects of the drugs".

But the provincial treasury has handed the programme to social welfare, putting the lives of poverty-stricken patients at risk.

Department of social development spokesman Mandla Ngema said he was unaware of the treasury directive for his department to take over the programme.

Health spokesman Chris Maxon said his department was cash-strapped after diseases such as extreme drug-resistant TB had broken out in KZN. These strains require far more expensive treatment than "normal" TB.

Mfundo Thango, a food service provider from Bantu Batho Management Services, said they had been flooded with calls from hospitals desperate for packages.

Sowetan reported last year that the health department stopped the project because it could not afford it. Though the department was able to spend R12million on the project in October last year, funds ran out in a month. Since then desperate patients have been queuing outside state clinics for food packages.

Ngema said though it was his department's responsibility to assist in times of disaster, HIV-Aids and TB patients were the health department's responsibility.