Helping hands reach out to victims

Human Rights Day presented a timely opportunity for Capetonians to open their hearts to the victims of the Imizamo Yethu fire.

From early on Tuesday March 21, volunteers flocked to the Hout Bay Sports Complex to lend their support to Thula Thula Hout Bay, which has played a key role in co-ordinating relief efforts.

As has been the case all week, long queues lined the perimeter fencing as fire victims waited for clothing,toiletries,baby essentials and blankets to be distributed.

According to Thula Thula, more than 5 000 people were still awaiting relief aid at the start of the week.

Thula Thula has registered the details of 14 831 victims and held two fire-relief days, delivering clothing, shoes, blankets and other essentials to 9075 people who lost their homes and possessions in the devastating fire.

“The opening sentence of the preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights reads: All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights,” said Thula Thula spokesperson Casey B Dolan. “This perfectly sums up our goal to ensure that those affected by the fire have their dignity restored.”

Ms Dolan said a relief effort of this magnitude was daunting but the community had been very generous and donations continued to pour in.

“However there is still so much work to do as every person, no matter their nationality or economic background, deserves to be able to live with dignity,” she said.

As goods were unpacked and sorted on the Astroturf, children played among the marquee tents, pitched to house families left homeless.

The fire victims have been using taps on the grounds to wash their clothes, which they then hang on a nearby fence to dry.

Inside the tents, parents and children lay on mattresses to escape the heat of the day.

One mother, who spoke to the Sentinel on condition of anonymity, said living in the tents was not ideal.

“It’s not very comfortable living with so many people in the tent. But what can we do? We have been told we can’t go back (to Dontse-Yakhe) to rebuild our homes, so this is where we will stay until we can.”

On Saturday March 18, mayor Patricia de Lille visited Imizamo Yethu for the first time after being away on business.

“I am also grateful to Capetonians and organisations who contributed so generously as soon as they had learnt of the suffering of these residents. They continue to do so. The response is characteristic of Cape Town’s hallmark kindness,” she said.

In February, the City started building the Imizamo Yethu housing project, which would provide housing for 956 families, and Ms De Lille said she would be meeting with the community to appeal to them to rethink the duplex design of the houses.

“If they give us the consent to build more densely by adding five more storeys, we will be able to accommodate even more beneficiaries.”

The City, she said, had also recently bought land in Philippi, which would accommodate those residents who were willing to move.

“This area will be an incremental development area, which means that they will be given serviced plots,” she said.

Late last week, Western Cape Health MEC Dr Nomafrench Mbombo announced that, in partnership with the Cipla Foundation, her department would provide the fire victims with primary health-care services even if they did not have the necessary documents.

“We understand that during such a crisis most families are unable to gather their important belongings such as their children’s clinic cards, ID books, or chronic medication,” she said.

The department would set up a temporary clinic with a nursing sister and shop assistant to dispense chronic medication and provide basic health care. The Cipla Foundation would donate R20 000 of medical stock.

Meanwhile, on Friday March 17, the Clicks Helping Hand Trust delivered R100 000 of toiletries and baby essentials to Thula Thula fire victims.