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As cholera rages, waste piles up in Mzuzu City

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Vendors and residents from some townships in Mzuzu City risk contracting waterborne diseases as piling waste compromises the city’s sanitation.

Our visit to some spots in the city found piles of garbage and also liquid waste streaming from toilets to drainages.

Around Mzuzu main bus depot, people still urinate against walls while others defecate in the open.

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At the city’s main market, both liquid and solid waste are one big sight. Used pampers scatter around in solid waste piles.

Flies and scavenging dogs have found home. Stench wafts in the air.

This is happening while Mzimba North in which the city is located has so far registered 465 cases of cholera with two deaths.

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Alexander Sikwese, chairperson of the Mzuzu main market vendors’ committee, said traders inside the market are comfortable with how both the vendors and authorities are managing the waste within the market.

But it is the filthy state of affairs outside the market that makes him worried. He blamed it on vendors who are plying their trade outside the market.

“Inside here, we always make sure we make our market clean. However, illegal vendors that are outside the market do not care about their surroundings. They litter anyhow and urinate anywhere,” Sikwese said.

Zigwagwa market main committee treasurer, Yosefe Misinde, said they have put in place by-laws to foster hygiene in the market such that anyone who breaches those guidelines gets a three[1]month ban from trading in the market.

“We would like to ask the city council to continue cleaning our markets but we cannot leave everything to the council. Our role as vendors is also to observe our hygiene and manage our surroundings,” he said.

In townships such as Salisbury Line, Masasa, Hilltop, Zolozolo and Ching’ambo, some residents still use shallow wells for water for domestic use.

A Masasa resident, Mervin Xumayo, said if the current situation is not controlled, the city may register many cases of cholera which could overwhelm the area’s health facility.

“The situation is pathetic. People are urinating anywhere. Many do not have potable water. I see danger if this continues, especially considering that it is raining now,” Xumayo said.

Mzimba North Director of Health and Social Services Prince Chirwa admitted that poor waste disposal might lead to increase in cholera cases.

He said his office is working hand in hand with the council to ensure there is proper disposal of waste.

Chirwa said apart from contact tracing of cholera cases, his office is also conducting pot to pot chlorination, sensitising communities using mobile van and engaging community leaders on prevention messages.

“We have been doing a number of activities in order to contain the outbreak with support from different partners, notably Save the Children, Red Cross, WHO, Norwegian Church Aid and more.

“We have been working with the city council who are also part of District Public Health Emergency Committee to ensure there is proper disposal of waste,” Chirwa said.

Mzuzu City Council Public Relations Officer Macdonald Gondwe said the council’s major problem in terms of waste management has been shortage of vehicles to ferry garbage to the designated dumping site.

“But let me assure the residents and vendors that we have hired some vehicles now to help clear piles of garbage in some of the strategic places,” Gondwe said.

As of Saturday, the country registered over 20, 000 cases of cholera and 674 deaths so far.

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