Cholera claiming more than lives in Zambia


Cholera kills more in Zambia. Photo by SALIM DAWOOD/AFP via Getty Images)

from ARNOLD MULENGA in Lusaka, Zambia
Zambia Bureau
LUSAKA, (CAJ News) – LIVES are lost at a high rate and life is coming to a halt in Zambia amid the worst eruption of cholera in the Southern African country’s recent history.

The water borne disease is a major test to the ailing health sector, whose hospitals in recent years have faced intermittent shortages of basic lifesaving drugs and suffer congestion.

The death toll is nearing 200 and cases have exceeded 5 000.

At the time of publication, there were more than 1 000 in-patients. The outbreak dates to January 2023 but has intensified since October.

Matters came to a head this past weekend when over a 24-hour period, 27 deaths and 567 new cases were recorded.

As the situation gets desperate, members of the public are discouraged from travelling between towns, public gatherings are dissuaded, the opening of schools has been delayed.

Most recently, President Haikande Hichilema has been forced to cut short his annual festive season break.

“In view of the escalating cholera situation, we are cutting short our holiday and returning to Lusaka to provide more direct and frontline leadership in the fight against the outbreak,” the president told an anxious nation.

At the weekend, Minister of Health, Silvia Masebo, discouraged inter-city travel, as the outbreak in the capital, Lusaka, surged.

She was speaking at a treatment centre at the Heroes Stadium in the capital.

This sports facility has been turned into a cholera treatment centre as part of an urgent measure to tackle congestion at health facilities as the cases rise.

This week, Masebo directed the deployment of more nurses and support personnel to the makeshift centre.

Local health authorities are providing chlorine to treat household water in badly affected areas and urge the public to adopt strict hygiene practices.

The Zambia Police Service (ZPS) on Monday urged citizens to refrain from organising or participating in public processions “until further notice.”

“The health and safety of our citizens are of paramount importance. We must take collective measures to contain the spread of cholera,” said Rae Hamonga, police Public Relations Officer.

Public gatherings, especially in the form of processions, pose a significant risk of exacerbating the spread of the disease.

In light of the outbreak the Zambia Police Service National Ball, which was scheduled to take place on Friday, has been postponed.

While the government had earlier announced the opening of schools for the new academic year would be deferred to January 29, the Ministry of Science and Technology announced that the resumption of technical vocational education and training (TVET) institutions will be delayed by a fortnight, also to January 29.

Cholera is an acute diarrhoeal disease that can kill within hours if left untreated.

The World Health Organisation describes it as a disease of poverty affecting people with inadequate access to safe water and basic sanitation.

Conflict, unplanned urbanization and climate change all increase the risk of cholera.

Some conditions are synonymous with Zambia, where outbreaks occur during the rainy season.

Before the current outbreak, eruptions of such a scale were recorded in the 2003-04, 2005-06 and 2017-18 seasons.

Those years, 187, 148 and 114 deaths were recorded, making the current outbreak since the turn of the millennium.

– CAJ News



scroll to top