Zambia: Cholera outbreak infects 10,000 citizens, kills 400

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Zambia has been hit by a devastating cholera outbreak which has infected more than 10,000 citizens, claiming the lives of more than 400. The situation has jolted the nation’s administration into action, prompting it to close schools despite the conclusion of the year-end holidays.

Due to this, the government is now providing 2.4 million litres of clean water every day, to communities which have been hit by cholera the hardest. Authorities have also converted a football stadium in the capital city into a medical facility for those affected by the disease, owing to the large number of patients coming in for medical assistance.

The situation has become so serious that the government has been forced to mobilise the natural disaster agency to tackle the issue.

Zambia is located in the southern region of Africa and began facing issues with the spread of cholera in October 2023. The latest reports suggest that a total of 412 people have died and 10,413 have been infected by the disease, causing widespread panic and confusion.

The Zambia Public Health Institute has been keeping tabs on the progression of the disease and released its latest report on Wednesday. The government body is responsible for the assessment of health emergencies in the nation and also undertakes the task of finding ways to control the spread of such a disease.

According to the Zambia Public Health Institute, the country has been recording roughly 400 fresh cases each day. Cholera has been detected by medical authorities in nine out of ten provinces and in half of the nation’s districts.

Zambia has a population of 20 million and the rapid increase in cases is quite worrying, considering the fact that the water and medical services in the country are limited, adding to the spread of the illness.

The Health Minister of Zambia, Sylvia Masebo, stated the following, “This outbreak continues to pose a threat to the health security of the nation.”

She has quite rightly said that the ongoing cholera epidemic has become a nationwide threat and has to be addressed accordingly.

UNICEF has spoken of the issue in simple, statistical terms, explaining that the typical death rate for cholera amounts to around 1% of the individuals infected but in Zambia, the rate stands at a staggering 4%.

Thus, the organisation has rightly called the figure devastatingly high and a major cause for concern, not just to Zambia but also to international organisations which are observing the situation.

Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe are other nation in southern Africa which have suffered from cholera outbreaks recently. UNICEF added that the southern region of Africa has seen 200,000 people getting infected by the disease and lost 3,000 souls since the beginning of 2023.

This shows the longevity of the problem as it continues to make its mark on Africa even in 2024. Malawi’s outbreak was the worst one it had experienced in decades, thus having a profound effect on the people, medical facilities and the psyche of the nation.

In fact, in the past few years, Nigeria, Uganda and 28 other nations around the world have suffered the effects of a cholera outbreak, catching the attention of the World Health Organisation, which views the disease as a serious threat.

While cholera can be treated and has had very little effect on developed nations, the poor water services and sanitary conditions in developing nations have made it a fatal disease for many other nations around the world.

A prime example of this is in Zambia having lost 229 people to cholera even before they were admitted to hospitals.

According to Dr Mazyanga Mazaba, the Director of Public Health Policy and Communication at the Public Health Institute of Zambia, the nation has seen multiple cholera outbreaks since the 1970s but the ongoing epidemic is the worst of the lot.

Despite the knowledge that cholera has the potential to be a serious problem for the nation, the government has been unable to take preemptive measure and mitigate the spread of the disease.

Cholera is an acute bacterial infection which is characterized by diarrhea and is known to spread through contaminated food and water. The lack of access to clean water and poverty have been recognized as the salient factors which allow the disease to spread rapidly, making Zambia the perfect breeding ground for it.

The WHO echoed these thoughts, adding that conflict, climate change and poverty are powerful drivers for the spread of such a disease. An example of this would be the spread of cholera in Mozambique, following a cyclone.

The waterlogging caused by heavy rains in Zambia, coupled with flash floods, created the perfect situation for the disease to spread, leading to the scenario that the nation currently finds itself in.

Due to the outbreak of cholera in Zambia, schools which were meant to open on the 8th of January remain closed and the government has asked parents to make use of educational programs on public radio and TV in the meantime.

This opportunity is being used by the Minister of Education to inspect and clean schools in the nation, in an attempt to keep students safe when schools eventually open once again.

Zambia’s Disaster Management and Mitigation Unit is now handling the task of providing granulated chlorine to treat water and taking large tankers of clean water to localities that require it.

The WHO has already provided Zambia with 1.4 million doses of oral cholera vaccinations and is expected to deliver another 200,000 soon. The government has also taken the step of showing high-ranking officials taking the vaccine publicly to breed confidence in the population with regard to the vaccine drive.

Having said that, public health professionals and experts around the world have raised concerns regarding the strain on the supply of cholera vaccines, brought on by multiple outbreaks in different parts of the world.

Reasonable estimates suggest that this scarcity could last till 2025, adding to the problems faced by nations such as Zambia which are looking for a quick and definitive solution to the disease but have been unable to find one as yet.

Nia Roberts
Nia Robertshttp://writeups24.com/
Nia Roberts, journalist at Writeups24, brings academic rigour and storytelling together. Nia's work covers diverse topics and uncovers hidden truths, amplifying marginalized voices. She stands as a paragon of journalistic integrity and a champion for the underrepresented. To reach Nia Roberts, you can email contact@writeups24.com

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