As the Pikitup strike enters its fourth week, mountains of trash are piling up all over Gauteng. This has sparked concerns over the health implications of leaving rotting garbage lying around on our streets.
Pictures of the uncollected trash on street corners in the Johannesburg CBD and various townships are making the rounds on social media, with many bemoaning the stench, and voicing concerns over the health hazards this creates.
Poor sanitation can contribute to a slew of health problems, and inadequate garbage control can result in the spread of a number of viral and parasitic diseases, according to an Australian Department of Health report.
“If food scraps are left lying around in the house or on the ground, particularly in warm, damp weather, it will rot, and germs will grow on it. If people, flies, cockroaches, rats or mice touch the rubbish they can get disease-causing germs on them. Anything they touch is then likely to get some of the germs,” the report states.
Bacterial diseases resulting from poor waste management include salmonellosis, shigellosis, staphyloccal food poisoning, skin infections and tetanus. Viral infections include trachoma hepatitis A, gastroenteritis and Murray Valley encephalitis.
People who live around rubbish are also very vulnerable to parasites like hookwoorms, tapeworms and roundworms, the Australian study found.
Pikitup spokesperson Jacky Mashapu says the organisation realises the gravity of the situation and is doing all it can to ensure that as much of the rubbish is collected as possible.
“We have been closely following this story. It has now been declared an essential service. We are aware that after 14 days it becomes a health risk, hence now it has become a city problem, it is no longer only a Pikitup issue,” he said.
Four thousand workers affiliated to the South African Municipal Workers Union have received notices of suspension for embarking on an unprotected strike. The workers are demanding salary hikes of between R8 000 and R10 000 for the lowest-paid workers.
Pikitup has called on every South African to heed the call to clean up where they can.