80 children die after water plant failure

Almost 80 children died after South African authorities failed to act when they became aware of a waterborne epidemic following the breakdown of water treatment facilities.

The deaths occurred in the Eastern Cape province last October but have only come to light now after the leak of a report into the epidemic.

Children died from diarrhoea and other complications but the exact disease which led to the tragedy is unknown as no stool samples were taken by the hospitals treating those affected.

What is known is that there was a breakdown in water purification works serving the Ukhahlamba District Municipality which the local authority was aware of.

Officials did not take action or issue a public warning until 15 deaths were reported.

The local authority blamed the hospital for the delay in action, saying it failed to report the deaths in time for a proper investigation to be carried out.

The Eastern Cape is a predominantly rural province, traditonal home to the Xhosa people and birthplace of many famous South Africans including Nelson Mandela, Thabo Mbeki and Steve Biko.

Sam Bond

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