Residents and visitors in Mzuzu City have every reason to fear for their health as 95 percent of garbage in residential areas goes uncollected currently.
The council’s director of health Lilian Chirwa lifted the lid on the filthy figures on Friday when First Lady Gertrude Mutharika’s Beautify Malawi (Beam) Trust mobilised hundreds of residents to clean up the city’s streets and main market.
Chirwa told journalists that nearly 80 percent of litter in marketplaces is collected and taken to Mchengautuwa dumpsite, but vendors’ president Scrivener Simbeye was admittedly “worried about the well-being of traders and customers” since only four out of 17 markets in the city have garbage skips.
Skips, the giant communal bins, are stationed at the main market, Hardware Square, Taifa and Katawa—leaving out 13 trading centres on the receiving end of diseases emanating from poor hygiene.
Mutharika described the ever-green city as “probably the most beautiful in the country”, but its roads are often blighted by uncurbed spills of waste and nearly all marketplaces have mounds of refuse piling for weeks.
Apart from wanton dumping of unwanted goods, Mayor William Mkandawire blamed the stinking situation on a well-chronicled shortage of equipment.
According to Chirwa, the city with 219 000 residents and 22 000 visitors has only 20 skips, one truck for carrying the communal bins, a written-off refuse collection vehicle, nearly 120 cleaners and 80 wheelbarrows.
Mzuzu City chief executive Thomas Chirwa described the situation as “a major public health concern” while Lilian Chirwa insisted “the five percent we collect from residential areas accounts for the mounds along Chibanja Road”.
Almost contradicting herself, she said: “There is no location where we collect litter, but nowhere do people dump waste recklessly like Chibanja residents.”
The First Lady, who founded Beam Trust to propagate public hygiene, urged Malawians to take responsibility for the garbage they churn out in homes, markets and pathways because this is the only country they call home.
“Keeping your body clean is nothing if your surroundings are dirty,” said Mutharika.
To lessen the shortage of tools, the First Lady donated 20 wheel bins, 20 wheelbarrows, 52 rakes, shovels and other accessories—all from Beam, Airtel Malawi, Nazma Ismael of IK Enterprises and Rabshana Karim of Karim Stores.