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South African Journal of Bioethics and Law

On-line version ISSN 1999-7639


OBASA, A E; BOTES, M  and  PALK, A C. Collective responsibility during a cholera outbreak: The case of Hammanskraal. SAJBL [online]. 2023, vol.16, n.3, pp.99-104. ISSN 1999-7639.

The transmission of cholera, a highly infectious disease, is closely linked to inadequate access to clean water and sanitation facilities, with resource-poor communities, including refugees, rural communities and temporary displacement camps particularly vulnerable to outbreaks. Any disruption in water and sanitation systems or a sudden surge in community size owing to displacement can spark a humanitarian and health crisis, elevating the risk of cholera transmission and possibly triggering a regional epidemic. Recently, Hammanskraal in Gauteng, South Africa, experienced such an epidemic. A multifaceted approach is essential to minimise fatalities and effectively manage healthcare services in such health emergencies. This approach includes early detection, rapid response to contain outbreaks, and the effective deployment of technical support, advocacy, resource mobilisation and partnerships at local, national, and international levels. This paper explores the responsibilities of individuals, healthcare workers, communities and governments in addressing epidemics. It also delves into the concept of collective responsibility with regard to climate change and cholera, as part of the multifaceted approach for cholera prevention and control. While economic development, equal access to safe drinking water, and adequate sanitation are necessary for cholera control, major challenges persist in achieving the fundamental right to a healthy environment in the long term. We also discuss these obstacles and conclude with practical suggestions and recommendations for future cholera prevention.

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