/ 6 August 2008

E Cape hiding information on baby deaths, says DA

The Eastern Cape department of health needs to release a full report on the deaths of 142 babies in the Ukhahlamba district in that province, the Democratic Alliance (DA) said on Wednesday.

In a statement, DA health spokesperson Mike Waters said the theory that the department is covering up information about the deaths will ”only gain ground”.

The Citizen newspaper reported on Wednesday that it had received the report and that the department had responded immediately to the deaths of the babies, which were caused by unclean water.

”The full report has still not been released and the summary gives little substantial information,” said Waters.

He said answers have not been forthcoming regarding possible criminal or disciplinary action to be taken against anyone in either the provincial health department or the water affairs department. It is also not clear whether the problem with the water has been addressed.

”In the face of the monumental tragedy of these deaths, the department of health has for months done nothing but deny responsibility and suppress information; the release of this brief summary will do very little to put the minds of the affected communities at rest.”

Provincial health spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo said the newly appointed provincial health minister, Pemmy Majodina, like her predecessor, has granted a number of interviews with the media regarding the recent deaths.

Allegations that the department is hiding anything from the public are not true, he said.

The report has been tabled in the provincial legislature by the health portfolio committee and the chairperson has also granted interviews.

”It [the allegations of hiding information] is a total distortion of the truth. Somebody is trying to get free publicity,” he added.

Kupelo said Majodina will be visiting the area next week to take part in public meetings with the affected community.

”All officials operating in that area will form part of the MEC’s imbizo [meeting] to listen to people’s concerns and the challenges faced by the community when it comes to health issues,” he said. — Sapa