In a misguided effort to stop the spread of swine flu, Egypt slaughtered more than 300,000 waste-eating pigs but…

Without any pigs to eat the garbage, gigantic heaps of the rotting, stinking stuff are piling up, creating a greater health hazard and risk for epidemics than swine flu poses. You just can’t make this stuff up, folks.

The pig slaughter severely affected the entire system of waste collection. This decision, which was taken hastily and arbitrarily, considering that pigs don’t carry/spread the swine flu virus, brought about today’s sanitation crisis.

Every day, the people of Al Khosos, in Qalyubiyah province north-west of Cairo, are confronted by heaps of rubbish and noxious odours. The problem, our Observer tells us, is one of waste collection, which has got worse since Egypt culled its pig herd because of concern over the A (H1N1) virus – or swine flu.

On April 29, the Egyptian authorities decided to slaughter 300,000 pigs in an effort to stop the spread of A (H1N1). Most of them belonged to the Zabaleen – freelance trash collectors and urban pig farmers – in the provinces of Cairo, Giza and Qalyubiyah. These ragpickers, most of whom are Coptic Christians, have been raising pigs and collecting waste since the beginning of the last century. For this largely Christian population, pigs are the primary means of subsistence, required both to recycle organic waste  and to sell in the form of ham.

The Zabaleen’s sorting and recycling of rubbish and waste could reach reprocessing rates as high as 80 percent – about 3,000 tonnes per day in the capital and the greater metropolitan area. The pigs that fed on the rubbish were key to the Zabaleen system – the pigs ate the organic waste – and then the tables were turned when the pigs became ham. But the decision to kill all the pigs – the scavenging waste-collectors’ principal source of revenue – was the final blow to the sector.

Cairo’s rubbish collectors – and pig breeders.

The private waste-collection companies have not been able to take over the work that the scavengers did. They don’t have enough qualified workers. What’s more, the ragpickers went from door to door to collect rubbish; people appreciated the service and paid them directly.

The decision to cull the country’s pigs has sparked a general psychosis. Nobody buys pork meat any longer, and people have even stopped walking past shops that sell it for fear of catching the flu! This paranoia grew further when Pope Shenouda [the head of the Coptic Orthodox Church] instructed followers not to eat pork. But it’s the rubbish collectors who have been stigmatised most. In some wealthy neighbourhoods, residents refuse to let them in, or tell them to cover up with plastic bags as a precautionary measure. They are treated as though they had the plague. OBSERVERS.france24

The man in this video man explains that the waste burning on the street had been dumped at a roundabout in Al Khosos, Qalyubiyah.