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Cape Board’s appeal: Keep us in the loop when sending water




The Johannesburg Jewish community has pulled together to send loads of water to Cape Town, but once there, the co-ordination has been somewhat of a headache.

The Johannesburg community responded to the dire water situation in Cape Town and gathered as much water as they could to try help those in the Mother City. The problem is that not enough thought has gone into what happens after the sizeable number of bottles are collected.

Joshua Hovsha, director of the Cape Jewish Board of Deputies, explains the challenge: “Water storage is difficult. Bottled water has a lifespan of one year, but this is rapidly reduced with exposure to sunlight and heat. Finding adequate storage solutions that are safe and accessible is an ongoing challenge.”

So far, the board has made every effort to co-ordinate the donations of water as effectively as possible, involving a number of local organisations who are able to assist.

Hovsha explains that a high-level task team has been set up to tackle messaging, water plans and disaster management. This includes the SA Jewish Board of Deputies, the Chief Rabbi’s Office, the Community Security Organisation, the United Jewish Campaign, Jewish Care Cape, the SA Union for Progressive Judaism and United Herzlia Schools.

He says certain drives to collect water in Johannesburg are being launched without the Cape Town Jewish Board being consulted, and that this water often arrives without any prior notice given.

“Our ability to ensure that water is properly stored is impaired,” Hovsha says. “This means that we have concerns over the safety of this water in the long term. Additionally, we are less able to ensure that the water is sent to those who need it most.”

Hovsha is quick to add that all efforts undertaken to help are always appreciated. So, this is not to say that people should stop giving, but rather, that people who are looking to contribute should do so by using the proper channels.

“It is vital for those wishing to help to start their own campaigns to communicate with the intended beneficiaries,” Hovsha adds.

“Indications from the City of Cape Town are that schools and facilities for the elderly will not be cut off from water supply. As such, sending water to schools and to these facilities is no longer a priority, but our focus is on helping the vulnerable in our community should we reach Day Zero – specifically, elderly people living on their own and people with disabilities.”

Despite the tremendous response to the plight of Capetonians, the board remains mindful of Day Zero and its consequences. “We have an additional responsibility to remember that our ‘nightmare scenario’ of a Day Zero is a reality for millions within our country on a daily basis already,” Hovsha points out.

“Day Zero can still be averted or pushed back. Already we have reduced our water consumption as a city and moved the date for Day Zero by a further two months.”

Hovsha remains optimistic. “We will make it through this crisis and as we do, we must find a way to end the perpetual moral crisis of living in a country where deprivation robs people of their dignity every day.

“The most heartening part of this crisis is about how much responsibility we are taking together. We are reducing our consumption, we are more conscious and are starting to make a difference. Day Zero has been pushed back, but we need to continue to control our own fate in this crisis by sticking to using just 50 litres of water a day each.

“We also need to take care of one another. As such, we as a community have put into place plans to ensure that our communal institutions are secured and the most vulnerable among us will be taken care of, no matter the outcome.”

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