The ongoing drought and lack of access to water in the Eastern Cape, particularly in the Amathole district municipality (ADM) which was declared a disaster area, had the biggest impact on menstruating women.
According to Sonke Gender Justice, the crisis infringed on the fundamental rights of these community members, including the right of access to sufficient water, the right to clean and decent sanitation.
“A lack of water is invariably a gender issue because it renders poor women and children of all identities (including women with disabilities) more vulnerable. There is a disproportionate burden on women and girls to collect water,” said Patrick Godana, Eastern Cape Province manager.
He said these journeys to collect water were onerous and sometimes took place at night, putting their lives in danger.
“Without water, women are unable to practice safe sanitation for menstruation, inhibiting their participation in meaningful economic and/or social activities,” said Godana.
The situation in the Amathole district was dire where villages with anywhere from 300 to 600 households had on average two communal taps from which all their water and sanitation needs had to be met.
Municipal spokesperson Nonceba Madikizela-Vuso said the drought conditions in ADM were worsening by the day.
“The worst affected areas are Adelaide and Bedford, where the town dams have been dry since April. The communities are currently relying on the Fish River scheme, which does not supply enough water to meet the demand of both towns,” said Madikizela-Vuso.
She said the biggest concern was the potential crisis which faces Butterworth, in the Mnquma Local Municipality where the main supply dam, Xilinxa, was only 4% full with enough water to last another month.
“There are no alternative sources for Butterworth currently and it will be costly to tanker in water. The dams which supply Dutywa in Mbashe, have also run dry,” she said.
Boreholes were currently used, but they can only supply a small amount of the daily demand required for Dutywa.
Other areas affected in Mbashe are the villages which are supplied by the Qwaninga and Dwesa rural water supply schemes.