A River of Sewage Water Surrounds a Polyclinic in Havana

The place intended to preserve health is, paradoxically, a source of potential infections for neighbors

Down the slope, a dark river with greenish parts carries waste from the Public Health department / 14ymedio

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Natalia López Moya, Havana, 18 June 2024 — Where there was hygiene, sewage remains. Those who walk in front of the Héroes del Moncada University Polyclinic on 23 Street, between A and B, in El Vedado, Havana, have been repeating the same ritual for days: go down the sidewalk, take risks among traffic on the avenue and avoid a spill through which flows waste from the health center’s bathrooms. The place intended to preserve health is, paradoxically, a source of potential infections for neighbors.

“At first, the stench didn’t let us live, but now I don’t even feel it,” admits a neighbor from A, where a dark river with greenish chunks drains downhill, carrying waste from the Public Health Department. “Children can no longer play on the sidewalk, and in many houses, people have had to put damp blankets with bleach by the door to clean their shoes before entering.” The grass in the nearest flowerbeds has grown “fed” by the sewage and a trash can seems about to float in the dark lake that has formed around it.

The disgusting current knows no limits or locks. It passes under the stately fence that surrounds the polyclinic, extends along the most important avenue of the modern center of Havana and sticks to the wheels of the shopping carts of those who await in line at the nearby rationed market warehouse. Everyone who passes by takes away something of its essence, be it part of the stench, some fragment of waste carried by the current, or the look of disgust on their face.

“At first the plague didn’t let us live, but now I don’t even feel it anymore” / 14ymedio

“In the mornings, people who come to get their blood drawn for some lab analysis line up right here”, says another resident nearby. “There are pregnant women, children, people with chronic illnesses and old people who can barely lift their feet to walk and they carry all of that stuff stuck to their shoes. Anyone who falls into those waters will come out with an infection, for sure.”

The property’s employees are also at risk. In the morning, they dodge the stinky puddles to get to their jobs and in the afternoons, they gain momentum again and jump so as not to take the detritus home.

On the bright green façade of the building, a sign warns that it is a University Polyclinic, a reference location for training new doctors in direct patient care. In addition to preparing them for clinical diagnoses, the place is designed to train them to practice the profession in the midst of hygienic and epidemiological chaos.

Translated by Norma Whiting


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