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Moshi must control cholera now, else …

CHOLERA, a dreaded disease that is rated as a fast killer, has attacked close to 30 people in Moshi rural district and, indeed, has sent shock waves in Simanjiro, Newlan, Chemchem, Kirungu and North Kahe wards. There is a state of panic and pandemonium in these areas.

The medical officer for Moshi District, Dr Alex Kazula, has said that in order to control the disease make-shift camps have been set up in all affected localities. Food outlets located at market places and auction areas have been closed to contain the spread of the disease. 

Indeed, the government should respond urgently in a quest to save lives. Cholera is a highly dangerous disease that often thrives in cities, municipalities, towns and even villages where unsanitary conditions prevail mostly in congested places occupied by squatters.

The pandemic often targets the poor who live in filthy conditions with no clean piped water. Here swarms of flies roam at will spreading fearsome diseases that include cholera. Unsanitary conditions also invite dysentery and typhoid which are surefooted killers.

These diseases, invariably, erupt where communities do not have good pit latrines, toilets or lavatories. It would be remiss on our part, however, not to mention expressly that sanitation efforts will only come to fruition if clean water is provided. 

Everyone should be aware that cholera is an acute diarrheal disease caused by an infection in the intestines that can kill even a healthy adult in a matter of hours.

Cholera symptoms, include severe watery diarrhea, which can surface in as little as two hours or persist up to five days after infection, and can then trigger extreme dehydration, kidney failure and death. It is, nevertheless, rather shameful to contract cholera.

The pandemic is spread through contaminated fecal matter, which can be consumed through tainted food and water sources or because of poor sanitation and hygiene, like unwashed hands. It is also a shame that not everyone has access to clean water or a good pit latrine. 

Inadequate access to safe water and sanitation services, coupled with poor hygiene practices, kills and sickens hundreds of children every day and leads to impoverishment and diminished opportunities for thousands of adults in this country. 

It is imperative to mention here that poor sanitation is a critical problem in some areas in this country. In fact, poor sanitation, water shortages and bad hygiene have many other serious repercussions. 

Children–and particularly girls– are denied their right to education because their schools lack decent sanitation facilities, a problem that has been mentioned in Parliament umpteen times. In urban centres shoddy garbage disposal is a major problem. 

In yesteryears, domestic garbage disposal units were considered an efficient way to get rid of food waste and other domestics in the homes, but in the current green living climate, the environmental impact of domestic garbage disposal has caused numerous problems.

These include economic, social and health implications that mainly afflict disadvantaged and vulnerable children in this country. An unfortunate situation similar to this scenario is likely to hit the residents of Moshi rural district, who are grappling with cholera attacks.

Diseases associated with unsanitary conditions prevail mostly in congested places where squatters, mainly the poor, live in filthy conditions with no clean piped water. Here swarms of houseflies roam at will spreading diseases.

Unfortunately, unsanitary conditions are often the source of numerous fast killer diseases such as cholera, dysentery and typhoid which, invariably, erupt where communities do not have good pit latrines, toilets or lavatories. 

The health ministry says that it is keen on improving sanitation, toilets and hand washing facilities at household and public places particularly in schools and health facilities–a noble crusade, indeed. But implementation seems to be painfully slow.

It would be remiss not to mention expressly that sanitation efforts will only come to fruition if clean water is provided. Tanzania has numerous water projects in various stages of implementation but, we are told, 83 percent of them have stalled.

The huge dumpsites in various locations in the city of Dar es Salaam are a case in point. Here, a large group of disadvantaged children are facing harsh health and environmental conditions when searching for leftovers of food and sellable objects.

Children, most of whom are dressed in rags and often barefooted clinch on new arrival dumps at the dumpsite brought in by City Council waste management team. Most of the children are prone to contaminable infections from food-borne bacteria to toxins.

The dumpsite itself is a stinky cloudy atmosphere. Here, children compete with dogs, rats and pigs in a disgusting and unsightly situation, thereby causing serious challenges for the Welfare Department, health workers and child minders, especially their poor parents.

Scavenging is a national problem. But, it appears, the most notorious scavengers are found in the city of Dar es Salaam where dumpsites are almost always overflowing with refuse shunted in from various sources including the port, hospitals, factories, garages and homes.

Scavenging people make their living by picking up and selling used paper, plastic, bottles, metal pieces, tins, rags, clothes and other objects from street garbage or dumpsites. Of course, another school of thought indicates that scavenging is a worldwide problem. 

However, the problem is more prevalent in large cities in other developing countries such as, Mexico, Thailand the Philippines and Malawi. Scavenging people are seen in all major towns, municipalities and cities in Tanzania. And there are a few in rural villages.

In most cases it is the same adults and street children that are seen eating from garbage cans that visit dumpsites. Adult beggars and socially disadvantaged children also scavenge. The habit is so compelling that garbage dumps often swarm with scavengers.

But scavenging is not a dignified undertaking. It is a shameful act but those who scavenge do not see it this way. For them, scavenging is a decent way of eking out a meagre living and there is no loss of dignity in doing so. 

But scavenging is not only a moral wrong. It is also a legal wrong. However, courts of law rarely receive litigations involving scavengers, no wander many of them believe that they are making a living decently. Scavengers face numerous health hazards. 

Most factories, especially in major cities, spill their toxic effluents into garbage dumps and residential areas causing a fearsome health risk. However, industrial effluents are not the only health hazards in cities and municipalities. 

Some of the most dangerous wastes emanate from hospitals, ports, garages and even homes. Some of these hazards are in the form of solid waste and are found in open-pit dumpsites.

So, while some devil-may-care industrial and mining executives pollute rivers with toxic effluents, urban administrators dump equally dangerous wastes in dumpsites where scavengers and children swarm looking for sellable objects or food.

Perhaps the most dangerous garbage comes from hospitals, health centres, pharmacies and dispensaries. Normally hospital refuse must be incinerated under close supervision. But somehow, some of the waste finds its way into the communal dumpsites. 

The items commonly found in hospital refuse include bottles, used syringes, various types of needles and blades, cotton swabs or absorbent pads used in surgery, empty medicine containers and used bandages. Most of these items are health hazards.

Highly dangerous waste also comes from factories in the form of garbage laced with toxic chemicals, acids and poisons. Industrial effluents often flow into dumpsites. Barefoot scavengers or those wearing sandals risk of treading on corrosive matter. Scavengers carry out their tasks in a highly unhealthy and dangerous environment where they are exposed to infectious diseases, including hepatitis A and B, tetanus, coliform and even HIV/AIDS. The state should correct this anomaly as well.

If all garbage heaps were incinerated thoroughly at the time of dumping, no one would have gone there to rummage through the ash. 

Factories and hospitals should have special incinerators or waste treatment plants to deal with dangerous effluents and solid waste. Unsanitary conditions, however, also prevail in highly congested slums.

Rural women, especially those in Dodoma, Singida, Tabora and Rukwa, are forced to spend large parts of their day fetching water. Poor farmers and wage earners are less productive due to illness, health systems are overwhelmed and the national economy suffers. 

Authorities should be aware that without water, sanitation and hygiene, sustainable development is impossible. 

It is unthinkable that fifty-seven years after Independence over 75 percent of the Tanzanian population still lacks improved sanitation facilities and that most people use unsafe drinking water sources. And cholera often crops up taking precious lives.

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Author: SOSTHENES MWITA

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