Cholera: disease of the poor

Issue 

The recent outbreak of a cholera epidemic in Peru made world news because that disease had been unknown there for 100 years. Left-wing Senator Hugo Blanco blames the economic policies of President Alberto Fujimori.

"Cholera is an epidemic from the middle ages", Blanco told the German biweekly Sozialistische Zeitung. "The fact that it has reappeared in Peru now is a sign of the country's economic backwardness ... In our country the poverty is so bad that drinking water is polluted with sewage, and therefore with germs.

"A film was produced in Sweden which showed the water drunk by a baby who died of cholera. It had been drawn from a waste dump. To kill all the germs it would have to be boiled for at least 10 minutes. However, people do not have the money for the necessary fuel.

"Furthermore, anyone who is well nourished will not die of cholera. In Peru, people are undernourished and die.

"Cholera is thus a disease of the poor. There is therefore a direct connection with the government's economic policies. The government's attitude has been completely cynical. They are worried about a fall in Peru's exports, and have launched a campaign to combat, not the cholera, but the fear of cholera ...

"Fujimori himself, for example, has gone on television eating the ceviche, a Peruvian dish of raw fish marinated in lemon, to show that it is not dangerous to eat ceviche.

"The minister of fisheries did the same, and it seems he got cholera, though this is not certain. In any case he would be healthy enough not to die from it. The agriculture minister went and ate unwashed grapes bought direct from the market. The head of the authority in charge of water distribution, meanwhile, could be seen drinking untreated water from a water lorry.

"This campaign can only help to further the spread of cholera ...

"Some 140,000 cholera cases have been admitted in Peru, with some 1000 deaths." — International Viewpoint