Violence erupts in Zambia over retail ban to combat cholera
Police in Zambia clashed on Friday with residents in the capital Lusaka protesting an official ban on street commerce in a poor suburb intended to tackle a deadly cholera outbreak.
A crowd of hundreds from the impoverished Kanyama community blockaded roads with burning tyres and logs and set a refuse lorry ablaze as they demanded that informal street retailing be allowed again.
Authorities had banned some street markets in Lusaka in an effort to reduce the volume of food and drink being sold in unsanitary open-air locations, which are particularly vulnerable to the spread of cholera.
Kanyama is the area which has been worst hit by Zambia's cholera outbreak which began in September and has claimed the lives of 70 people and affected 3 077 others so far, according to the health ministry.
Demonstrators claimed that street trading is the only source of income for many people living in Kanyama. In recent weeks authorities have forced dozens of bars, restaurants and stores in the capital to close in an effort to stem the spread of the disease.
"The riot is there (and) currently under control," said police spokeswoman Esther Katongo in a brief statement confirming the clashes. Police were seen bundling several protesters into vehicles although officers were unable to confirm how many people had been detained in connection with the clashes.
Cholera is a water-borne diarrheal disease that can kill within hours if left untreated, but is easily cured with oral rehydration, intravenous fluids and antibiotics. Clean water and sanitation are critical to controlling transmission.
President Edgar Lungu said previously that he was "deeply concerned" at the spread of the disease, blaming water from shallow wells, unsanitary conditions in residential and public areas and contaminated food. On December 30, he ordered the military to assist efforts to combat the disease.