Cholera in Cuba
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Have We Become Accustomed To Dirt?

Have We Become Accustomed To Dirt? / Yoani Sánchez

Translator: Unstated, Yoani Sánchez

A teenager writes — with his index finger — the words "Wash me" in the

dust on the window of the bus. A mother asks her son what the school

bathroom is like and he confirms that "it stinks so much you can't go in

there." A dentist eats a french fry in front of her patient and with

unwashed hands proceeds to extract a tooth. A passerby lets his pizza —

just out of the oven — drip cheese over the sidewalk, where it

accumulates in a pool of fat. A waitress cleans the tables at Coppelia

Ice Cream with a smelly rag, and puts out glasses sticky with successive

layers of badly scrubbed milk. A spellbound tourist drinks a mojito in

which several ice cubes made from tap water are floating. A sewer

overflows a few yards from the kitchen of a recreation center for kids

and teens. A cockroach quickly darts along the clinic wall while the

doctor listens to a patient's chest.

All this and more I could enumerate, but I prefer to summarize what I've

seen with my own eyes. The hygiene of this city shows an alarming

decline and creates a scenario for the spread of disease. The cholera

outbreak in the east of the country is a sad warning of what could also

happen in the capital. The lack of health education from the earliest

years of life lead us to accept filth as the natural environment in

which we move. The material shortages also raise the epidemiological

risk. Many mothers reuse disposable diapers several times, stuffing them

with cotton or gauze. The plastic bottles collected in the trash serve

as containers for homemade yogurt or for milk sold on the black market.

The inadequate water supply in many neighborhoods reduces hand washing

and even the number of baths per week. The high prices and shortages of

cleaning products further complicate the situation. It is very difficult

now to find stores selling mops to clean the floor and detergent is also

scarce. Keeping clean is expensive and complicated.

Last week the media announced a new health code for food handling, an

undoubtedly welcome measure. But the serious hygiene problems plaguing

Havana will not be resolved based on decrees and resolution. Educating

about cleanliness, extolling the need for cleaning from an early age,

will be a critical step to achieve real results. Schools must be a model

of neatness, not a place where students have to hold their noses to use

the toilet. The teachers must transmit standards of cleanliness, just as

they teach speech and mathematical formulas. It should also be cheaper

to maintain a supply of products to wash our bodies, our clothes and our

homes. This is essential and imperative in our current situation. We

need urgent measures that don't simply remain on paper but that touch

the conscience, shake this acceptance of the dirt surrounding us, and

return to us a clean and cared for city.

13 August 2012

http://translatingcuba.com/have-we-become-accustomed-to-dirt-yoani-snchez/

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