The Democratic Alliance is shocked at the horror-figures that close to 1 000 children under the age of five died of diarrhoea in this province in the past three years. This is made worse by the fact that the number of deaths have increased instead of decreasing.

In reply to a written question to parliament, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said the figure had increased from 167 deaths in 2006 to 243 in 2007 and a total of 536 in 2008.

These figures are a stark reminder of last year’s tragedy in the Ukhahlamba District Municipality, where some 150 babies died due to diarrhoea infections which were related to contaminated water and poor sanitation.

It is clear that despite last year’s wake-up call in Ukhahlamba, the Eastern Cape Health Department did not implement an early warning system as promised. Furthermore, these findings are directly linked to poor infrastructure. Local Government MEC Sicelo Gqobana confirmed during the last sitting of the Legislature that municipal sewage systems were at capacity and overflowed into rivers.

South Africa is one of only 12 countries worldwide where infant mortality is actually increasing. (subs: according to Dr. Joy Lawn, whose findings were published in the UK-based medical journal The Lancet).

I will request the MEC of Health for an urgent investigation into this matter and impose the necessary disciplinary action if any negligence found by the department.

After the tragic deaths last year, the public expected a decline in diarrhoea fatalities rather than the shocking increase. The Democratic Alliance Eastern Cape will make a call not only to the MEC of Health, but the Premier to come up with a cohesive plan to deal with this tragedy.

For further information, please contact Pine Pienaar, MPL on 082 446 1888