This article highlights multiple aspects of risk perception in relation to cholera control and infectious disease risk reduction in Beira, Mozambique. Findings suggest that risk perceptions vary over time and are interpreted on the basis of visible contamination, cognition and context. Risk perceptions influence the efficacy of risk reduction strategies. Although risk is viewed as a communal problem, notions of individual, community and institutional responsibilities structure the perceptions and attitudes to local hygiene and infectious disease reduction strategies. Perceived risk variously acts as a motivator in the adoption of risk management approaches. However, a lack of infectious disease interventions by other community members and local institutions devalues individual motivation to combat risk of cholera. Community involvement in addressing vulnerability to disease requires knowledge of multiple influences on risk perceptions and governance contexts that facilitate collective control and responsibility.