Stuck in the Muck of Angola’s Capital City

Angola was on page one of today’s NY Times. Sadly, this was a portrait of a Malthusian crisis, with mountains of garbage, rivulets of raw sewage, kids sliding into the muck and more than 40,000 often fatal cases of cholera.

It would have taken 22,000 dump trucks just to haul away the trash, back in 1994, when the city of Luanda had half the number of people it has now. Ironically, the country is awash in oil revenues, ringing up more than $16.8 billion this year, with a third more expected next year. “Economists say the government simply has more money than it can spend…yet it seems powerless to address even the basic issues of clean water and sewers that would make such epidemics entirely preventable–a paradox that critics attribute to corruption, incompetence or the hangover of a 27-year civil was that flooded the capital with refugees, or all three.”

The story is painful to read, of 450 tanker trucks that suck up 1.3 million gallons of foul polluted water, that in turn they sell to more than 10,000 vendors who sell it for 12 cents a gallon to slum dwellers. The government that has all of the oil money put forth a pittance–20 trucks were ordered to supply free water, compared to the 300 private trucks that supply the poor for profit now. Doctors Without Borders is organizing distribution of free chlorine, forcing the vendors to purify the water before they sell it. The cholera is now abating, but the problems of corruption and disease will linger.