Urban Disorder: Overflowing Garbage Heaps breed Health Risks

As HYSACAM workers in Yaounde continue with their sit-down strike, doctors warn about impending health risks of the overflow of garbage.

Dr Kiya Bebongnkeng, a General Practitioner in the Buea Regional Hospital says as the heaps of dirt are scattered across town, Yaounde inhabitants are exposed to dysentery, typhoid fever and cholera, amongst other diseases.

Another Medical Doctor, Dr Yong Eli epouse Anang expatiates on the health consequences of the garbage which litters the streets of Yaounde.

“Having dirt all over the town leads to soil polution which is physical contamination of the soil by harmful substances. All components in the environment: air, soil, water and organisms are interconnected thus a contamination of one aspect in the environment affects all other elements in the ecosystem,” the Dr explains.

“Humans are exposed to soil contamination through accidental ingestion of contaminated food, dust and polluted particles which can lead to food intoxication, food poisoning, digestive tract infections which manifest as stomach ache and diarrhea,” Dr Yong warns.

She further indicates that the WHO estimates that 1/10 of the world’s population become sick from food poisoning each year.

The Medical Doctor adds, “Dust is a pollutant and an allegene which can cause asthmatic attacks in asthmatic patients. This mode of exposure is particular in children due to their hand-to-mouth behaviour.”

Furthermore, Dr Yong warns that those who intentionally ingest soil (especially geophagists – people who eat earth, clay, chalk, etc) could experience acute intoxication, cancer due to chronic intake of contaminants through the soil, anemia in pregnant women and infections in children due to their hand-to-mouth behavior.

“There is also the inhalation of soil particles and contaminated dust and vapour indoors and outdoors. This is most frequent in cases of occupational exposure of workers in polluting industries to organic and inorganic contaminants. This toxicity can manifest as respiratory distress syndrome and sometimes even lead to lung cancer due to chronic inhalation,” Dr Yong elucidates.

Another level of contamination is skin contamination.

“Contact with dirt causes irritation to the skin, dermatitis and systemic infections if contaminants bypass skin barrier,” Dr Yong Eli warns.

With the above mentioned diseases lurking around, inhabitants of Yaounde are called upon to be cautious and seek alternative ways of keeping their environment clean and safe.

Eleanor Ayuketah Ngochi

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