There are no toilet facilities for the vendors at the Lusignan Market
I am writing to draw attention to a serious public health hazard at Lusignan Market. There are no toilet facilities at this market. Vendors coming from as far away as Berbice, many of whom are on the road for up to 12 hours, have nowhere to relieve themselves. They either have to beg to use the private toilets of persons living near the market, pay nearby businesses whatever price is asked, or crouch in the grass in an empty lot across the street. This situation is particularly problematic for female vendors who are less able to urinate freely in public than their male counterparts. Some women reported not drinking anything for the whole day in order not to have to urinate, or holding in their urine until they return to their homes. This puts these women at risk of bladder and urinary tract infections and other health problems.
In addition to being a grave inconvenience, this lack of toilet facilities also constitutes a serious health hazard to the general public who shop at the market. Dangerous diseases such as dysentery, cholera, typhoid, and hepatitis are spread via unhygienic practices and exposure to E coli and other bacteria that result when proper toilets are not available to people – especially those who deal with food items. Adding insult to injury is the fact that these vendors pay weekly dues to the Neighbourhood Democratic Council.
The lack of public toilet facilities is a problem across Guyana, resulting in mass despoiling of our common spaces with faeces and urine from desperate individuals. Many locals as well as foreign visitors are repulsed by the stench in the streets of our cities and towns. One would think then, that the public authorities, when given the opportunity to remedy this situation – especially at a place like a market where food items are being handled – would be quick to do the right thing. This, however, is not the case.
The tarmac where the market operates in Lusignan is government provided, but the toilets promised by officials during the grand opening, over six years ago, have yet to materialize. NDC officials, presented with a petition signed by the majority of vendors, refused to accept it, citing the fact that stall numbers were not noted. However, the point of the stall numbers has long faded, a fact that does not prevent the NDC staff from collecting weekly dues from the vendors. Then, stall number are not necessary. Obviously, their refusal to accept the vendors’ petition is a clear sign of their unwillingness to address this issue.
I raise the case of the lack of toilet facilities at the Lusignan public market for several reasons. First, as someone who shops at this market, I would like to know that the person selling me my food has access to a proper toilet and handwashing area so that I need not worry about falling sick. But this is also a clear example of the callous disregard of the local government authorities, who have enjoyed an uncontested reign of power for far too long, towards the health and welfare of their constituents. It shows also, taxation without representation. The vendors and their ability to earn an honest livelihood are threatened if they do not pay the market fee every week, but aside from permission to sell in that location, they are not provided with any other services. The NDC collects their money weekly but treats them like animals, telling them to use buckets if necessary.
In short, this issue and the NDC’s lack of response, in the face of overwhelming complaints and all that is known about basic health and hygiene begs the question of whether these NDC officials are human or aliens dropped from the sky, not born of woman and without sisters, wives, or daughters. To blatantly ignore and deny fellow human beings this basic dignity is evidence of a most monstrous and corrupt nature. Worse, the head of the market committee of the NDC is female. Her complicity and lack of attention to this matter is evidence of the blinding effect of power; because she has a position and office and is not standing in the hot sun for 10-12 hours, dehydrated and punishing herself so that she doesn’t have to squat by the roadside, she doesn’t care if the vendors, her fellow women, have to. This behaviour is selfish and heartless at the minimum; ultimately, it is responsible for the destruction of the very fabric of our society, where one cares naught for another fellow human and only for their own status, comfort, and amount of money and power they can accumulate.
I share this story of the Lusignan vendors in an attempt to awaken the conscience of my fellow Guyanese. We must wake up, speak out, and stand up for ourselves and the rights of our friends, loved ones, and fellow people when we see them being violated. Everyone has the right to live a dignified life. Let us all join with the vendors of Lusignan and demand that the NDC remedy this serious public health hazard and human rights violation at the market by providing toilet facilities there immediately.
We are sending a copy of this letter to the Chairman of the Lusignan Neighbourhood Democratic Council for any comment she might wish to make.