By: Bongiwe Ndlovu
On the 5th December 2017 our Minister of Health, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi released a press statement informing the nation about the outbreak of Listeriosis and what causes it. On his press release he said “the bacteria is widely distributed in nature and can be found in soil, water and vegetation, animal products and fresh produce such as fruits and vegetables”. He went on to say “for this particularly outbreak, the most likely source is contamination of food at origin e.g. farms and agriculture as well as food plants.” The most recent press release took place on the 4th of March 2018, by our Minister stating that they have narrowed down the source of the deadly outbreak to Enterprise foods and Rainbow outlets. To date, the Listerioisis outbreak has claimed a total of 180 lives of which 50 people were from KZN, 92 in Western Cape and there are 436 have been reported as infected in Gauteng which is the province that has been affected the most in the country.
As the A! Health Champions, we would like to advise the network and all young people to be vigilant of the food we consume even though we understand the high cost of food. We understand that the target foods are mostly consumed by youth in the form of school lunches and as staple food in most homes. To minimise the risks, while the investigations continue it is important to practice basic hygiene techniques such as:
- Keep your hands clean at all times especially when preparing and consuming any food items.
- Cook food thoroughly, never eat half cooked food or raw meat.
- Keep food at safe temperatures.
- Use safe water for domestic use at all times
We encourage people to refrain from consuming processed foods such as polony, cold meats and vienna sausages as a whole. Those can be substituted with eggs, peanut butter, jam and other healthier more organic options such as fish. We would also advise that more youth look at adding more fruit and vegetables in their diets. The vision is to move our diet from high processed fat and meat diet to a more organic diet that would ensure that children live a long a healthy life. To fight against a lowered immune system, we encourage people to incorporate daily exercise and drinking water as part of their daily routines.
Our call to action:
As A! Health champions, we understand that all parties involved are currently conducting investigations that will find the source of the outbreak so that we can ensure that no more lives are lost unnecessarily. We would also like to call on South Africans to take the matter seriously and even though it seems like a joke or a hoax to rather be safe than sorry. Just like how people did not believe the HIV/AIDS pandemic was real until it affected us personally, let us not wait until we or our loved ones are affected before we start taking precautions and taking care of our health. After all the funny social media videos are sent and gone and you(th) have received the 100 likes on social media pages, you(th) will be faced with dealing with the disease on their own. Listeriosis is real and it is killing people.
We would like to extend our deepest condolences to the families who lost their loved ones and will continue to conduct Pro-Youth Health Solutions that will look at training young people on how to live a healthy long life. We are looking forward to working with government and the private sector on how we can achieve this goal together.
We follow these investigations closely and scrutinize every decision taken as it affects every day South Africans that do not have the luxury of purchasing organic foods from high end retailers. The fact is as per Section 27 of our Constitution, everyone has the right to sufficient food, and we would like to champion that once the government and independent investigations are completed that there are legal repercussions of placing South African lives in danger in the name of profit. We want to know who will take full responsibility and compensate the families that have lost loved ones for the trauma. And we want to know what precautions are being taken to ensure that such an outbreak does not happen again. We will be at the forefront of challenging the food industry and our government in their quest to genetically modify our food to raise profits and food costs at our expense.
We as the A! Health Champions take this stance because we believe that #YouthHealthMatter
A! Health Sector Champions