Disaster management policy options to address the sanitation challenges in south Africa.

Author:Hoossein, Shafick


Recent data indicate that up to 55.1% of the South African population resides in provinces where the country's major metropolitan centers are located (Statistics South Africa [StatSA], 2013). During the 2002-2013 period, the rate of economic in-migration from rural to urban areas of South Africa increased significantly (Gauteng Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, 2011; StatSA, 2013). One of the indirect consequences of this economic in-migration and concurrent rapid urbanization is the influx of people into informal settlements and backyard shacks, i.e., the low-income areas in big cities (Beall, Crankshaw, & Parnell, 2002; National Disaster Management Centre [NDMC], 2013a). These low-income communities are generally more vulnerable to disasters than their high-income counterparts (Tandlich, Chirenda, & Srinivas, 2013). In addition, these low-income settlements suffer from lack of water and sanitation service delivery (Luyt, Muller, Wilhelmi, & Tandlich, 2011). The combination of these factors leads to increased population densities in slums, which in turn increase the size of the urban population exposed to inferior hygiene conditions (Lamond & Kinyanjui, 2012). These living conditions constitute a disaster hazard for the urban population and exposure to them (i.e., disaster exposure) increases the probability of infectious disease outbreaks in urban areas (Lamond & Kinyanjui, 2012), i.e., health-related disasters.

Hygiene and the related epidemics/disasters are interlinked with sanitation. Sanitation in South Africa has a disaster management dimension in connection with natural hazards triggering technology disasters (Ozunu et al., 2011) and the secondary effects of floods (Luyt et al., 2011). Problems with sanitation service delivery and the resulting impacts have been given attention by the national government in South Africa since 2001 (Hoossein, Whittington-Jones, & Tandlich, 2014). Several strategies were tested to improve the situation (Hoossein et al., 2014; Portfolio Committee on Human Settlements, 2012), but problems remain in the area of sustainability of sanitation provision (South African Human Rights Commission [SAHRC], 2010). The main causes for this are the shortage of sanitation skills at the local government level (Whittington-Jones, Tandlich, Zuma, Hoossein, & Villet, 2011) and the lack of buy in from the community and the end users into the sanitation facilities provided by the government to the population (Hoossein et al., 2014). Thus, in this article, we investigate the possibility of applying disaster management policy tools to address the sanitation backlog and capacity shortages in urban areas of South Africa.

Research Methodology

Policy research was conducted using South African government documents and online databases, i.e., the Parliamentary Monitoring Group Web site and SCOPUS. Further information was obtained from Web sites of the city of Cape Town Disaster Management, the Johannesburg Metropolitan Municipality, the Disaster Management Institute of Southern Africa, and the National Disaster Management Centre of South Africa. Limited field observations were also conducted to demonstrate certain practical implications of the sanitation provision in South Africa.

Results and Discussion

If a municipality's capacity is insufficient to meet the sanitation service delivery requirements, then our research indicates that one of the best policy tools to address them is the draft Disaster Management Regulations: Disaster Management (designated as the policy in the remainder of this article [DMRDM], 2005). Elimination of sanitation service delivery gaps is in particular facilitated by chapters 2 and 3, as well as appendices A and B of the policy (DMRDM, 2005). These sections of the policy allow the local government's disaster management component, namely the Municipal Disaster Management Centre (MDMC) to appoint volunteers to assist "with community and environmental health" and "waste water and solid waste services (DMRDM, 2005)." Further sanitation-related tasks can be assigned to the volunteer unit based on a "needs analysis"--an audit of the skills and technical capacity of the given local municipality (DMRDM, 2005). Volunteers are recruited from the local governments' own jurisdiction, providing the most-upto-date knowledge needed to respond to local disasters. Such volunteers can assist MDMC in installation and maintenance of the sanitation infrastructure and prevention of environmental contamination with pathogens and fecal matter (Bakare, Foxon, Brouckaert, & Buckley, 2012).

The policy is flexible and provides good tools for appointment of relevant stakeholders to fill in the capacity gaps and engagement of nongovernment stakeholders such as nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). Practical implementation of the policy has, however, been slowed down by a time-consuming legislative process and concerns raised by the disaster management stakeholders during a thorough consultative process (Kilian, 2009; National Council of Provinces of South Africa, 2010). The first stakeholder concern was that volunteers were not to be used by local government to perform tasks that the existing municipal staff members were paid to do (Kilian, 2009). The second concern of the disaster management stakeholders was to ensure that proper insurance coverage was awarded to every volunteer (Kilian, 2009). The final concern was that the volunteers be allowed to apply for any existing disaster management vacancies in local government that they are qualified for (Kilian, 2009).

The consultative and legislative processes about the policy resulted in gazetting of the draft Disaster Management Volunteer Regulations in 2010 (designated as guidelines for the rest of...

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