October 23, 2002

New Cholera Outbreak in Maputo

At least 10 patients have been admitted to the cholera ward at the Mavalane General Hospital in Maputo over the last few days, and the health authorities blame the early outbreak of the disease, before the onset of the rainy season, on deteriorating sanitation conditions in the town, reports Wednesday's issue of the daily paper " Noticias".

Maputo is going through yet another of its periodic garbage crises, with heaps of rubbish piled on the streets. The menace to public health is aggravated by leaks in the obsolete sewerage system. The health authorities are once again urging Maputo residents to observe basic measures of hygiene, and to treat all drinking water to try and prevent the spread of the disease.

The health source did not specify the areas from where the hospitalised cholera patients come, but the suburbs that are usually worst hit by this disease are Maxaquene, Chamanculo, Mafalala, Polana Canico and Mikadjuine. More than 340 cases of cholera, that resulted in four deaths, were reported in Maputo during the first two months of this year, compared with over 800 diagnosed in a similar period of 2001.

Meanwhile, Maputo city council has announced that it will soon receive two new trucks to add to its mostly broken-down fleet of rubbish collection vehicles. The director of the Maputo city sanitation services, Joao Mucavele, said that the situation has been worsening lately because the four trucks that were being used to do the job have all broken down and the municipal authorities do not have the money to buy the necessary spare parts to repair them. He claims that the lack of money is partly caused because nobody is paying to have their garbage collected.

Earlier this year the City Council introduced a garbage fee that, in agreement with the electricity company, EDM, was added on to electricity bills. For households the fee was 20,000 meticais (about 80 US cents) a month. Nobody who pays electricity bills can possibly find it difficult to pay an extra 20,000 meticais a month. Yet a vociferous few complained at the new fee, and a handful of lawyers made the specious claim that it was illegal. EDM panicked and stopped collecting the fee: the result of this cowardice can be seen and smelt on the streets of the capital now. Mucavele said that until the two trucks arrive, the municipal authorities are working with local business people to help in the job of cleaning up the city. Mucavele said that for it to do the job properly, the municipality needs at least 15 garbage trucks. (AIM)

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