Growing sanitation problem at refugee camp

Residents of Paint City wash their clothes at a tap

Belrail residents have blamed the Paint City refugee camp for a foul-smelling stream of effluent running into their neighbourhood, but the refugees say they don’t have enough toilets and washing facilities. 

Belrail Neighbourhood Watch chairwoman Gerda Gerber says she and residents have seen the refugees discard waste water and urinate in the gutters near the camp, but despite several complaints to the City the problem persists.

“Then the waste just flows down to us. It is really not good for our community because the smell is terrible and it makes it unpleasant to be around.” 

Belrail residents have also complained about taxi drivers turning a local park into a makeshift rank after their usual rank was moved to make way for the camp.

“We are so worried about it being here because not only do they litter in the park, but there is so much activity that anything can go wrong. During lockdown, there were so many incidents of shootings at the Bellville taxi rank. So what if that happens here as well?” Ms Gerber said.

One of the refugees at the camp, Sulaaiman Nahigombeye, said there were only 20 toilets, four basins and four showers for the 700 people living there.

“We came up with a system of only using the showers for three minutes at a time to save water, but there are so many people here so there will be some who just go do their business somewhere else. We made it that 12 of the toilets are for women, three of those are for the small girls, and then we got eight for the men, one of which is especially for the little boys.” 

He added that the tent had sprung several leaks during the recent heavy rains. “We live here and make the best of what we have, but it gets really tough for us here, and we need more assistance with things like the toilets and water. We have tanks of water that fill up when it rains, but we still have to use it sparingly, and we must take note when somebody uses water.” 

Several residents of the camp were using a solitary standpipe for their laundry, letting the run-off spill into the gutter and nearby streets.

 “The people cannot use the basins to wash their clothes,” Mr Mahigombeye said, “because people have to use those to wash their hands when they come out of the toilets or when they come out the shower. So they have to use the only tap to do their washing, and when we tell the city what is happening then they say they will send somebody to come look but then either nobody comes or when they do come they just say they will fix it.” 

The City’s executive director for safety and security, Richard Bosman, said the City was looking for an alternative site for the refugees. Questions put to the City’s sanitation department  went unanswered.