21 January 2011

Mozambique: Cholera Riot - Mob Destroys Officials' Homes

Maputo — Mob violence led to the destruction of six homes of neighbourhood secretaries in the town of Namialo, in the northern Mozambican province of Nampula, on Wednesday night, according to a report in Friday's issue of the Maputo daily "Noticias".

The crowd accused the six officials of spreading cholera. This is the latest in a series of attacks carried out by people who refuse to believe that cholera is spread by poor hygiene, and instead attribute it to a conspiracy of officialdom.

There is currently an outbreak of cholera in Nampula province, and four people are reported to have died of the disease in Namialo.

The police were obliged to fire into the air to disperse the rioters, and made ten arrests.

The mob also wanted to attack the local health centre, but failed although they did assault the security guard on duty.

One of the most macabre aspects of the campaign of disinformation against cholera is that it targets precisely the people trying to halt the spread of the disease, such as health workers and Red Cross activists. Thus those fighting against the disease are accused of causing it.

The interim head of the Namialo administrative post, Paulino Essiaca, told "Noticias" that the wife and son of one of the secretaries whose homes were destroyed were injured in the attack.

Namialo has suffered from an outbreak of severe diarrhea and vomiting, the symptoms of cholera, which Essiaca blames on the consumption of contaminated water.

The local authorities and the Red Cross have been using chlorine to purify water supplies. As in the past, the vague similarity between the words cholera and "chloro" (chlorine in Portuguese) may have led to the rumour that local officials are deliberately poisoning the water.

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