September 11, 2007

Water rationing arrives

Swazis are struggling to cope with one of the longest dry periods in memory. "Water levels are down nationwide," said Jameson Mkhonta, public relations officer for the Swaziland Water Services Corporation, the parastatal water utility, which has announced water-rationing regimens for the capital, Mbabane, the commercial hub, Manzini, the Matsapha Industrial Estate, and Ezulwini, the centre of Swaziland's luxury hotel industry. Manzini and Ezulwini recently went without water for two days.
About 40 percent of Swaziland's one million people are facing acute food and water shortages, according to UN agencies. Most of the water cuts are unannounced, but when they last for several days the government trucks in water to the affected communities. Water rationing is already in place in some rural communities, where taps run dry for days at a time, and rural and urban residents take shortcuts to their homes and workplaces across now dry streambeds. The rapidly shrinking water sources have undoubtedly aggravated the plight of the food insecure. "You wonder what people are doing with the maizemeal they receive as food aid when there is no water for cooking?" asked Dolores Made, a humanitarian relief worker in Manzini. The government said it had purchased two million litres of water from the Maguga Dam to go to communities whose water runs out, but this is projected to last no longer than two months. Families have resorted to drinking water from small local dams, streams and rivers and even, in some cases, sharing dwindling water supplies with livestock, sparking fears that waterborne diseases, which have already occurred, could spread. A Government hospital in the rural Shiselweni Region in the south of the country, has already reported a substantial increase in cases of cholera, an acute intestinal infection caused by contaminated water or food. (rts)

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