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SAHRC investigates child’s alleged tap water E coli contamination

21 January 2023

Durban - The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) has confirmed that they are investigating the allegations of a Durban mother who claims that her son was contaminated with E coli through tap water.

Laura Garibdass, from Shallcross, alleged that the eThekwini Municipality has not been completely transparent about the purification of tap water. She believes that her son, Yash, 4, was hospitalised for five days due to E coli contamination.

Garibdass claimed that the only way her son became contaminated by E coli was through consuming tap water from their home.

She said Yash became ill on December 16 and was admitted to Life Chatsmed Garden Hospital on December 21.

A specialist paediatrician’s medical report which the Sunday Tribune has seen, stated that Yash had been admitted with sinobronchitis and persistent gastroenteritis. His stools showed the presence of enteropathogenic E coli (a type of E coli bacteria that causes diarrhoea) which required five days in hospital to clear.

He was discharged on December 25.

Garibdass said initially Yash became lethargic and lost his appetite.

“I treated him at home because no one wants to be in hospital over the festive period. December 18 was his birthday; he had a fever which worsened the next day. We waited for a bed at the hospital and on December 21 he was admitted. I thought it was just pneumonia, but when the results showed E coli I was shocked. He also tested positive for adenovirus (which can cause cold-like symptoms),” she said.

She said her son had also suffered from diarrhoea and his condition improved when he returned from hospital.

“After he was discharged, the municipality posted (on social media) that tap water was safe to consume and I responded stating that my son had E coli. I emailed the Water and Sanitation department. Someone from the municipality within the Chatsworth district came to my home and took a sample of the water from my kitchen tap. I haven’t received the results yet.

“Yash didn’t visit the beach and was only at home or at school. The only place he could have been contaminated would have been at home where he used a large volume of water,” she said.

“He suffered so much. There should be warnings to say it’s not only the beach that’s contaminated, and that there’s a possibility that tap water may not be 100% safe. I was gullible and trusted that the tap water was safe.

“I have laid a complaint with the SAHRC and complained to the municipality. I will consider taking this further. I don’t trust the municipality. Even though they took a sample from my home in January, the problem occurred in December, so it won’t be an accurate report. I hope they take accountability and test the water so this can be avoided. Now I boil water at home for him to bath and he drinks bottled water,” said Garibdass.

The eThekwini municipality did not want to respond to questions without the medical records of the child.

Meanwhile, Eric Mokonyama, acting chief operations officer, said the matter is currently being assessed.

“The SAHRC has been in communication with the mother and is now assisting with assessing the complaint. The outcome of the assessment of the matter will assist in determining whether/which (if any) human rights have been violated,” said Mokonyama.

Source: Sunday Tribune

The South African Human Rights Commission.

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The Human Rights Commission is the national institution established to support constitutional democracy. It is committed to promote respect for, observance of and protection of human rights for everyone without fear or favour.

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