As typhoid cases soar, so are the thousands of Ugandans in downtown Kampala who continue to consume risky food and fruits sold along walkways.
At an entrance to St Balikuddembe market, where mangoes and jackfruit are sold, the air is thick with the stench of untreated sewage running through the Nakivubo channel. All around the vendors is poorly-disposed plastic waste and it is surprising they think that peeling mangoes from such an environment is not dangerous if one’s hands are protected.
“We always wear buveera (plastic bags) to ensure that we keep our food clean. We are sometimes disturbed by KCCA but we are also looking for income and have nowhere to station than here,” said one mango vendor, whom I established rapport with, pretending to be a buyer.
Meanwhile, dust from the heavy motor traffic blows into their merchandise. Still on the walkway is a half-filled garbage skip reeling of large green flies yet traders seem unbothered by the menace.
Once inside the market, more disturbing sights leap into view. In the food arena, rinsing water is used on over 50 plates. Even when a visible clog of fat is seen floating on top, these local chefs continue to use the dirty water.
Moreover, some of the wiping towels are too old and others are used to wipe both the utensils and lift hot pans off charcoal stoves. The mere sight of some of the aprons that these chefs wear is enough to make one lose appetite. However, it seems like the vendors, especially cloth vendors, herein have no choice.
“I have eaten this food for the last seven years [that] I have worked here and do not have a problem with it. Being clean is obviously necessary and I always ensure that my plate of food is clean. Not bad so far,” Salim Katongole, a vendor, tells me.
Water, pineapple juice (omunanansi) and light millet porridge (bushera) sold in transparent plastic bags is common sight. These cost between Shs 200 and Shs 400. Reports of fruits and other foods like bananas and sweet potatoes being kept in sacks and stored at different points in Nakivubo channel are prominent.
Accordingly, the channel acts as a natural ‘refrigerator’ due to the cooling effects of the water. St Balikuddembe market is among the sites cited as a hot-bed for the recent typhoid outbreak that has left at least 1,100 people infected, as of March 19, 2015. These cases raise questions about the effectiveness in monitoring and regulating the food business.
“KCCA conducts routine inspections and we gly discourage people from consuming these roadside foods. In fact we have been arresting them and crackdown operations are ongoing,” Robert Kalumba, KCCA’s deputy spokesperson, told The Observer.
Additionally, 30,000 food handlers have been tested for infectious disease organisms that cause cholera and typhoid. Kalumba says those with unhygienic food and food preparation environments are closed down.
“The challenge with enforcing these standards is the mobile nature of the vendors. However, we are going to faze them out by insisting that each arcade has eating joints, certified by KCCA”. he said, adding that aggressive sensitisation is still required to completely change people’s consumption behaviour.
Source : The Observer