Since February Angola has been hit by the worst cholera epidemic it has ever experienced. Some 33,000 cases have been reported, with more than 1,200 deaths. The outbreak erupted in Boa Vista, one of the poorest shantytowns that surround the centre of the capital, Luanda. Over the past 30 years – during and after 23 years of civil war – Luanda reported a rapid increase of its urban population, especially in slum areas.
The city has been hit particularly hard by this outbreak: more than half of the infected people live in Luanda and 20 per cent of the deaths have occurred here. Not a single corner of the vast city has been spared the epidemic.
The majority of cases – 13,000 out of 16,200 – in the capital have been treated by Médecins Sans Frontières. The medical charity has become critical of the official Angolan government response. According to spokesperson Richard Veerman: ‘Angola has the money to deal with this kind of thing. Global oil prices are high and it’s got diamonds. The response to date has been very slow and we’d like to see a dramatic scaling up of the Government’s efforts.’
In the meantime the private provision of expensive commercial water has become a lucrative business: it costs 50 cents to purchase a daily supply for one person. This is in a country where, according to the World Bank, three-quarters of the population lives on less than a dollar a day.