Angola cut spending for low oil prices and triggered a yellow fever health crisis

Luanda might be pretty but other parts of Angola are dealing with a health crisis.
Luanda might be pretty but other parts of Angola are dealing with a health crisis.
Image: Reuters/Herculano Coroado
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Like other oil-dependent countries, Angola has been hit hard by the fall and continued volatility of the price of oil. To deal with the resulting cash crunch, Africa’s second biggest exporter of oil made budget cuts last October with public investment reduced by as high as 53%.

While the measure was seemingly to adjust to the new realities given that oil accounts for 95% of government revenues, the Angolan government’s budget cuts, which affected essential state services like waste collection and water sanitation, have come at a high human cost.

With the budget for waste collection services in particular cut by almost 70%, there has been a sharp uptick in the rise of communicable diseases. A yellow fever outbreak with roots in Viana, a poor suburb in capital city Luanda, has now spread uncontrollably as the latest death toll, according to the World Health Organization, stands at 158. Hospitals have also reported cases of diarrhea, malaria and cholera.

Authorities believe poor sanitation has been the main cause of the outbreak as it provides a fertile breeding ground for mosquitoes.

The first cases of yellow fever were recorded in December, two months after budget cuts. Angola’s government reacted with a national task force which handled laboratory testing and enhanced surveillance but regardless, WHO, has warned the disease could spread even further. “This is an urban pattern of outbreak of Yellow Fever and it is much more complicated to tackle and deal with. The possibility of spreading out to other provinces or even to the all country is much higher,” Ospina has said.

The situation is another stark reminder of the inequality in Angola as while most of upscale Luanda remains unaffected by the waste crisis, smaller suburbs and rural areas have been worse hit as residents are being forced to burn refuse as a last resort.

In the meantime, Angola’s crisis is not getting getting any better. The country has already cut 2016 spending by 20% with oil prices not matching the budgetary benchmark of $45. Kwanza, Angola’s currency, was also recently named the most overvalued currency on the continent, according to the KFC index.