January 10, 2006

Public fish and meat vending banned

Government has banned public vending of fish and all meat products in a widened move to control the spread of cholera. This came as the fruit and vegetable market at Mbare Musika was closed with immediate effect. Health and Child Welfare Minister David Parirenyatwa said the prohibition in Harare was imperative to curb the highly infectious disease, which has already claimed three lives in the capital. The minister added that the number of suspected cholera cases in Harare had risen to 14 and added that the clean-up operation, conducted by Government and Harare City Council in 2005, had helped to control the spread of the disease.
Vendors however denied that it was their meat that was causing cholera blaming the health crisis on government mismanagement. They also said uncollected garbage because of a six-year crippling fuel crisis had also contributed to the health crisis in urban areas. Margaret Chuma, a 34-year old mother of three in Harare's suburb of Mbare, also blames the government for creating the economic crisis that has seen people resort to vending in a bid to survive. Chuma, who buys meat from butcheries in Domboshawa just outside Harare, says she resells the meat to well-to-do professionals in Harare who have found the price of beef in Harare's supermarkets and butcheries well beyond their reach. A kilogramme of beef is costing around Z$280 000 per kilogramme in Harare. "This has been my way of earning a living for the past year since the government destroyed our vending sites in the locations. Now they want to use this cholera thing to shut us out from an earning honest living," she adds.
Mbare Musika vending market is currently in a bad state with mounds of uncollected garbage and impassable roads. The ongoing rains have also worsened the situation, resulting in mud and rotting garbage attracting flies threatening the health of not only the retailers at the market. Preliminary investigations in Harare had indicated that the outbreak was a result of food contamination. Nearly the whole of Harare buys its fresh produce from Mbare Musika either directly or through suburban vendors. Sekesayi Makwavarara, the chairperson of a government appointed commission running Harare threatened to unleash municipal police on those defying the meat ban. After the cleaning and reopening of the market, the city would make sure that garbage was collected daily and that standards were maintained, Makwavarara added. Seven people died of the disease recently in Chikomba while another four deaths were recorded in Murambinda in the Buhera district. At least 181 cases have so far been reported. (The Herald, Harare/Zimbabwe Online, South Africa)

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