“Kill all the pigs!” — was the fallow and forsaken outcry in Egypt. “If the pigs are dead,” the ill-rationed reasoning flew, “then we won’t get the swing flu virus.” Oh, how woefully wrong they were.
When the government killed all the pigs in Egypt this spring — in what public health experts said was a misguided attempt to combat swine flu — it was warned the city would be overwhelmed with trash.
The pigs used to eat tons of organic waste. Now the pigs are gone and the rotting food piles up on the streets of middle-class neighborhoods like Heliopolis and in the poor streets of communities like Imbaba.
Ramadan Hediya, 35, who makes deliveries for a supermarket, lives in Madinat el Salam, a low-income community on the outskirts of Cairo. “The whole area is trash,” Mr. Hediya said. “All the pathways are full of trash. When you open up your window to breathe, you find garbage heaps on the ground.”
What started out as an impulsive response to the swine flu threat has turned into a social, environmental and political problem for the Arab world’s most populous nation.
The lesson we must take from Egypt’s overreaction to the Swine Flu pandemic is that we must always be rational and logical and careful in the rash decisions made in the midst of an emergency.
If we need a gentle and loud reminder of the crassness of wanton thinking made in the depths of fear, we only need turn our eye to the streets of Egypt to see the mess while turning up our noses at the stench of the failure of a vital, national, Public Health emergency response.