With low accessibility to consistent running water for weeks at a time, residents of Mandeville are fearful that efforts to maintain proper sanitisation will be compromised amid the spread of COVID-19. At least 10 persons in Jamaica have tested positive for the novel coronavirus.
Water shortages have been a long-standing problem, but have heightened concern because of the extra emphasis on proper hygiene. Residents are now upset that, at this crucial time, there seems to be no real solution.
“I had no water for the entire week, last week. If you ever see the small pan of water I have to use to bathe,” said one resident in the Waltham area last week.
“I had clothes piling up in the wash and I couldn’t even send the children to school. Water came for a few days for a few hours and I had to fill up every bottle. We need consistent running water. We can’t function like this.”
Last week, a student of Northern Caribbean University, who resides off campus, revealed, in a letter to the editor, that she did not have water for two straight weeks and was contemplating transferring to another institution in Kingston if the issue persisted.
Neither respondent revealed their identity.
Operations at the main tax office in Mandeville were halted on Friday after the doors were closed temporarily because of water shortage.
Workers told The Gleaner that proper sanitisation efforts were not implemented and that the lack of water compounded those issues.
Among the persons who could be seriously impacted by the chronic water shortages are those who require healthcare.
Owner and operator of Ken’s Health Care in Knockpatrick, nurse Lyn Kennedy, said that she would be in a quandary if she had not made other provisions.
“It is just frustrating because you don’t know when it’s going to go off … ,” Kennedy said.
“I have changed my taps and we have quite a number of catchments and quite a bit of water of our own, so that cuts down our reliance on NWC … .”
Mayor of Mandeville Donovan Mitchell told The Gleaner that following the Local Board of Health meeting last Thursday, the need for trucking water has risen as the National Water Commission (NWC) wells have fallen.
“It doesn’t make sense we are telling people to wash hands and there is no water … ,” Mitchell said.
“We are looking to see if additional funding will be allocated for the trucking of water … . People are going to need water now more than ever.”
According to the NWC, a total of US$16.6 million will be needed for system rehabilitation.
“We have the greater Mandeville water supply system, which is currently operating at 50 per cent of the usual capacity, and this is as a result of mechanical problems which developed at the Pepper No. 3 well,” said Teisha-Ann Pinnock, NWC’s community relations manager.
Pinnock said that the NWC is working to have full capacity restored by March 26, and to improve supplies through the commissioning of an additional well in Pepper by year end.
Chief Executive Officer of Mandeville Regional Hospital, Alwyn Miller, said that there were no water shortages at the hospital.
“As indicated by the ministry, we have all been mandated to put ourselves in a state of readiness. We would have had our emergency supplies, and at this point in time we are sufficiently stocked to manage,” Miller said.
With only one isolation room that holds two beds, the Mandeville Hospital is seeking to transform other areas into isolation spaces.