Africa Asia Middle East Français Português Subscribe IRIN Site Map
Global HIV/AIDS news and analysis
Advanced search
 Thursday 04 October 2007
Weekly reports 
In-Depth reports 
Country profiles 
Fact files 
Really Simple Syndication Feeds 
About PlusNews 
Contact PlusNews 
Print report
ANGOLA: Luanda's residents drink suspect water, say surveys

Photo: Jaspreet Kindra/IRIN
Most Luanda residents buy their water by the bucket
LUANDA, 22 August 2007 (IRIN) - Most residents in Angola's capital, Luanda, consume water of suspect quality, according to recent surveys by UN agencies, the government and non-governmental organisations.

Initial results from research into the levels of residual chlorine in the homes of the most vulnerable communities in Luanda, by the UN Children's agency (UNICEF), the UK-based development agency, Oxfam, the international medical charity, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), and the International federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, showed that up to 82 percent of households were using water that was not properly treated.

A large part of Luanda's population uses water dispensed from storage tanks of dubious cleanliness, according to a recent joint survey - Preliminary Report on the Knowledge, Attitudes and Practices of the Population in relation to Cholera in the Province of Luanda - by the Ministry of Health and UNICEF.

In certain suburbs all the residents depend on water from such tanks. The findings are a cause for concern: Angola is recovering from a cholera outbreak that began last year, when it notched up the world's highest fatality rate from the disease: 2,722 deaths, most of them in Luanda. This year, 16,320 cases have been reported in 16 of the country's 18 provinces, with most fatalities (77) occurring in the capital.

''The human waste just flows through open drains out into the sea or river systems''
More than half the people living in informal settlements, called musseques, depend on private tankers for their daily water. Most of the estimated 4.5 million people in Luanda live in informal settlements, perched on hardened mounds of waste, making the installation of standpipes impossible, according to Guy Clarysse, the head of UNICEF's health and nutrition section in Angola.

The joint UNICEF/government study sampled 456 households in the suburbs of Luanda most affected by the present cholera epidemic: Cacuaco, Sambizanga and Cazenga.
Inadequate sanitation

In the São Pedro de Barra township, water is supplied by a fountain, which had "untreated water" written on the side, but the residents did not make an effort to treat the water. In the same neighbourhood, researchers found an entire zone with almost no latrines - the residents defecated into plastic bags and threw them into the sea; one resident interviewed had contracted cholera twice.

Almost three decades of conflict, which only ended in 2002, have impeded the development of a water and sanitation system in Luanda. "The human waste just flows through open drains out into the sea or river systems," said Pierre-Marie Achy, UNICEF's cholera coordinator in Angola.

Cholera, an acute intestinal infection, is usually transmitted through faecally contaminated water or food. "In Luanda, sanitation is deficient," said the UNICEF/government survey. "The greater part of the neighbourhoods are covered by pools of water; there is a lack of drains to let the residual waters run off. Some of the neighbourhoods around Luanda have been transformed into rubbish dumps ... they are also the poorest areas."

Almost half the developing world, all of it poor, lacks access to sanitation. The poverty-stricken residents of Luanda, most of whom barely manage to earn US$50 a month, cannot afford gas or wood to boil water. The cheapest alternative is using bleach powder, but the joint survey found that while most people were aware of cholera, they were largely ignorant of accessible water purification methods.

Photo: Jaspreet Kindra/IRIN
In the absence of a waste disposal system, garbage and human waste just piles up around the settlements
MSF found that the lack of water prevented many children and adults from using the available latrines, and many people defecated at night in open areas, in the streets and on the rubbish dumps.

"The only solution is change of behaviour. Luanda has been built to accommodate only 400,000 people - you cannot expect the government to catch up overnight [with services such as access to drinking water and sewage disposal]," said Claire-Lise Chaignat, the World Health Organisation (WHO) coordinator for the global task force on cholera control.

"They must become aware of chlorination, storing water in clean containers and observing basic hygiene - it is the best they can do in these conditions."

The government's national Directorate of Water has plans to provide running water to at least half the city's population by the end of 2008.


Theme(s): (IRIN) Environment, (IRIN) Health & Nutrition


[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]
Print report
FREE Subscriptions
Your e-mail address:

Submit your request
 More on Angola
AFRICA: Food production to halve by 2020
GLOBAL: Monetised food aid under scrutiny
SOUTHERN AFRICA: The effect of migration on HIV rates
GLOBAL: US company sues American Red Cross over use of Red Cross emblem
ANGOLA-MALAWI: IRIN-SA Weekly Round-up 347 for 18 - 24 August 2007
 More on Environment
AFRICA: La Niña: Worst is yet to come, warn climatologists
SOUTHERN AFRICA: Cutting edge farming methods boost production
AFRICA: Food production to halve by 2020
BURKINA FASO: Counting the damage to agriculture
SOMALIA-YEMEN: Yemenis take big risks fishing in Somali waters
Back | Home page

Services:  Africa | Asia | Middle East | Radio | Film & TV | Photo | E-mail subscription
Feedback · E-mail Webmaster · IRIN Terms & Conditions · Really Simple Syndication News Feeds · About PlusNews · Bookmark PlusNews · Donors

Copyright © IRIN 2007
This material comes to you via IRIN, the humanitarian news and analysis service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations or its Member States. Republication is subject to terms and conditions as set out in the IRIN copyright page.