Maputo — Some residents in Montepuez district, in the northern Mozambican province of Cabo Delgado are refusing to spray their homes against mosquitoes, or to use chlorine to purify water, thanks to deliberate disinformation campaigns against these basic health measures.
Montepuez district administrator Arcanjo Cossa, speaking during a visit by First Lady Maria da Luz Guebuza, blamed the rejection of spraying and chlorination on “political questions associated with illiteracy”.
Repeatedly, health workers have tried to protect citizens against cholera by chlorinating wells. But in parts of northern and central Mozambique, disinformation campaigns have been waged, claiming that the chlorine causes cholera. On occasion there have been full scale riots, and even attacks against health centres.
Arcanjo said a campaign was under way to break down suspicions and prejudice. Mobile brigades have been sent into Montepuez villages to explain the importance of preventing malaria by spraying against mosquitoes, and how chlorination can prevent water borne diseases.
He believed that this battle was being gradually won. “With the awareness campaigns, the reluctance is slowly being reduced”, he said.
Some communities now accepted that purification of water can prevent cholera, but others still resisted. Worse still, there were cases where people went back to rejecting chlorination after “ill-intentioned individuals” appeared, and campaigned against purification, thus undoing all the district government’s efforts.
Addressing residents of the Mirate administrative post, Maria Guebuza stressed that every citizen is responsible for the fight against diseases such as malaria and cholera, which could be eradicated if everyone united in cultivating good practices of hygiene and cleanliness.
“Do those who reject spraying and water purification think that the government buys these medicines in order to kill them?”, she asked.
In reality, she stressed, the government’s intention is that citizens should enjoy good health and it would go on training people in spraying and water purification techniques “because only in this way will the problems of cholera and malaria be solved”.
“We cannot continue dying of malaria and cholera”, Guebuza exclaimed. “These are diseases which we can all fight against”.
In Mirate, Guebuza also visited the local health centre and the “Waiting House” where pregnant women can stay prior to giving birth. She urged all pregnant women to have their babies in health units, rather than at home, “because only thus can the birth of healthy children be guaranteed”.
The nurse on duty, Zainabo Fernando, said attendance at the health centre is poor, which she blamed on the scattered nature of the population, many of whom have to walk for long distances to reach the centre.