Trip to South Africa

Part of the initiative with the Tutu Foundation UK was that NHS colleagues would go to the international association of conflict management conference (IACM) and present the work we are doing in the NHS to colleagues that work with conflict and fractured communities around the world. I was honoured to be asked to lead the health delegation to Stellenbosch, Western Cape, south Africa.

The Republic of South Africa has a population of between 50.59-million people with a variety of cultures, languages and religious beliefs. To put it into context England is a country of 130,395 km with a population of 51.5 million people (56 million in the UK). It has three capitals; Pretoria (administrative); Cape Town (legislative); Bloemfontein (judicial). The country is made up of nine Provinces: Eastern Cape, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumulanga,

On the surface and on landing, Cape Town looks modern and very western. Its only when you leave the airport that you realise and can see  some of the issues and challenges South Africa has to tackle and deal with.  There is literally mile upon mile of poorly built housing. Slowly the South African government aims to replace these homes with new high quality housing, but this will of course take time and money.

Many of the majority black population live in these houses. I was told that when it rains heavily, many of the houses wash away and people have to build new ones from corrugated iron sheets and wood. It clearly is a hard and difficult life for many.

South Africa is a very beautiful country and has some breath taking views and vistas. It was only 19 years ago that the nation changed constitutionally and apartheid was dismantled. However, the legacy of apartheid lives on and the cost of healthcare places a great strain on the nation. Aids and other poverty-related diseases such as tuberculosis and cholera place a tremendous strain on South Africa’s health care system.

According to Statistics South Africa, in 2011 the overall HIV prevalence rate was 10,6%. About one-fifth of South African women in their reproductive ages were HIV positive. There are 5,38-million people living with HIV. This was up from 4,21-million in 2001. 16,6% of the adult population (aged 15–49) years was HIV positive. There are about 2,01-million orphans due to HIV. The health inequalities are enormous and the majority of ill health is amongst the black population.

Even with the issues they have to face, the South African people are gracious, warm and very welcoming.  We managed to go to the Cape of Good Hope, the most South Western point of the African continent.