Birth in the Karoo

Beaufort West is the gateaway between Cape Town and Johannesburg. It is also the gateway to holiday resorts in the Western, Eastern and Southern Cape. I am a Beaufort Wester. Heart transplant pioneer Professor Chris Barnard, is the the town’s most famous son. Yes, Chris grew up in the dusty and small town we love. The people of my dusty home town are strong and know how to survive. I learned about enduring hardship in this small town.The life lessons of Beaufort West have enabled me to survive many obstacles. I have lived in many countries and feel that I can survive anywhere. Many people in Beaufort West feel that way and do well anywhere they go.

The karoo district which includes towns like Beaufort West, Laingsburg, Murraysburg and Merweville are experiencing an intense drought and all water supplies are currently running low. These towns are known for their climate; droughts are common place and endless. Beaufort really needs rain. Having no water is no joke.

I think South Africa could face a water crisis in the near future and therefore the leaders should start to take action now. We need good water management for growth and development otherwise water demand will outstrip supply. Our government leaders have to take the lead and take this issue seriously. South Africa is known as the 30 driest country.

Beaufort West is small town with lots of unemployment and poverty. The town is riddled with chronic diseases due to poverty. All of this is preventable. People are used to hardship, yet they know how to survive and do quite well. The people of Beaufort West are goodhearted, genuine and warm. They take care of each other even though they struggle themselves. Everybody knows each other. Beaufort West is the best town, and a great place, but it is sad about the drought.

Beaufort was known for its long history of midwives. Chris Barnard was born at home. There are no private midwives in Beaufort West; everybody gives birth in the hospital or clinic where midwives take care of them. Somtimes it is very busy and sometimes not. Beaufort West has one hospital and seven clinics. The hospital, located next to the N1 freeway in Beaufort West, services a vast geographical area that serves as home to thousands of residents. The 57-bed hospital admits patients from far-flung Karoo locations. It also serves as a national health asset caring for thousands of travellers passing through the town. There is a small maternity unit. Women endure labour and give birth to their babies without any drugs.

The midwives of this town do not just deliver babies in the town but also on the nearby farms. My grandmother was a midwife in this mould. She went from farm to farm to deliver babies. She looked after women, cared for them, making food and basically taking care of all their needs.

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