If you don’t live in PNG it’s probably escaped your notice that there’s a cholera epidemic ripping through the population – as if HIV/AIDS was not enough! Anybody with an ounce of brains knows that cholera spreads through, uh, . . . well, there’s no polite way to say it – feces. Okay, I guess that that’s reasonably polite.
So, the powers that be in Madang, in their infinite wisdom, have promulgated many rules to try to stop the spread. The problem is that nobody is out there checking to see if anybody at all is paying attention. These people certainly are not:
They have set up an illegal betelnut market (called buai in Pidgin) not fifty metres from our office. They’ve even put up some scruffy barbed wire to mark it off, heaven knows why. They have not been happy at all with my three visits today, camera in hand:
Those faces may look happy, but let me tell you they are not. So, what’s so bad about this? Well cholera spreads primarily from poor sanitation. Your best defense from cholera is to stay clean, especially the places that count, drink no water that’s contaminated and do not eat food that might be contaminated. If you fail to follow these rules, you’re very likely to get very sick. The hospital has set up a special ward for cholera patients and it doesn’t look as if it’s going to be big enough.
So what’s this got to do with buai? Well, think about it. Especially since town water has been only occasionally available for several days, nobody is paying much attention to washing their hands. So, the guy shown above goes to the toilet and, guess what, he doesn’t have any toilet paper and no clean water is in sight. Then he goes back to his little store of death and picks up a buai nut and hands it to you. You do the usual thing, pop it into your mouth and start to peel back the skin. Hmmmm . . . yummy cholera germs!
So, you’re skeptical, eh? MadDog is off on another of his rants, tasol. Well, let me show you what I found (by smell) twenty metres from the buai market. You guessed it – the toilet:
Uh, that brown blob in the lower centre of the image is exactly what it look like. There was plenty more lurking inches back in the foliage. Lots more.
If you’ve never had the delight of walking (very carefully) around in a tropical area where people are defecating all over the place, believe me, you can forgo the experience with no great loss.
Okay, now I’m mad. Somebody is going to do something about this or I’m going to sharpen up my pencil and start jabbing it into people’s ears. There are people that I care about who are at risk from this.