The Cholera problem needs a lasting solution

Written by on February 23, 2019

LET’S find a lasting solution THE recurrent outbreaks of cholera in the city of Lusaka is an issue which we should not take lightly at all.

It is a matter which should provoke our serious reflection on the root causes and what exactly we need to do as a nation to in order to stop the trend altogether.

We should not allow Cholera to become a part and parcel of our every rainy season experience, because every outbreak means another serious loss of human lives.

In October last year, our country experienced a severe cholera epidemic which led claimed the lives of more than 81 people countrywide while thousands were hospitalized. The military was also deployed in Lusaka to enforce measures aimed at curbing Cholera transmission which included bans on street vending and public gatherings, closure of marketplaces, schools, universities and colleges, and curfews in the worst affected parts of the city.

And just when we thought the cholera problem was behind us, we heard the Minister of Health Dr Chitalu Chilufya announce on February 21, 2019 that five Cholera cases were infact been recorded in Lusaka’s Kabanana compound, Chipata compound, SOS are and Garden Chilulu compound, in January.

The Minister said that of the five cases, four were confirmed laboratory cases while one was a suspected case in Mtendere compound. He assured that the five cases have successfully been treated and that his ministry had heightened surveillance to prevent the possible spread of the disease.

While we welcome the assurance by the minister, we need to keep in mind that, no matter the size of the Cholera outbreak, its impact on the nation in terms of human resource, national finances and the people lives, generally, can never be underestimated. Much of the cost of the outbreak, is infact, borne by the poor whose economic activities are curbed and disrupted because of the outbreak.

We also know that these perennial Cholela outbreaks can also discourage foreign investment in Zambia.

The biggest question, nevertheless, which still remains unanswered is whether we as a nation, can achieve a lasting solution to this problem by implementing appropriate measures and actions.

Cholera epidemics are associated with poor water and sanitation infrastructure that help spread the Vibro cholera, the bacterium which causes Cholera.

Latest statistics on WASH in Zambia, indicate that, only 68% of households in Zambia have access to improved water supply, but only 40% have improved sanitation. But improved water access does not necessarily mean access to safe water. For instance, water from boreholes typically considered safe has tested positive for cholera in Lusaka.

Furthermore, many households around the country are dependent on unreliable municipal water supply or public taps and may at times be forced to turn to less safe alternatives.

The reason for this situation is simple, there has so far been very little investment into the water and sanitation infrastructure while the maintenance of water pipes and sanitation infrastructure has also been neglected, leading to erratic water supply.

Experience, especially in Lusaka and other major towns, has also shown that there has been lack of access to safe water and toilets for traders operating in the central business districts, a situation which has contributed to the regular outbreak of the Cholera disease. Some traders, as a result, resort to using alternatives for toilets and dispose refuse and filth anyhow, leading to the eventual accumulation of refuse and filth which ultimately supports the easy spread of the vibro cholera bacterium.

In our view, the deployment of military personnel to the central business districts and markets around the country to enforce cleanliness and anti-street vending measures should be made regular because it would help stop the outbreaks.

In our view, the cholera outbreak in Lusaka should provide our nation with a clear illustration of what we need to do to deal with this perennial Cholera problem – that we need to improve investment into the water supply and sanitation infrastructure; and increase Cholera prevention and awareness programmes.

But over and above, we should ensure that the people and communities always observe cleanliness.

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