Zambia: Health authorites rallying to contain worst cholera outbreak in a decade

A family is seen entering a tent set aside for cholera patients at a clinic in Harare, Zimbabwe, Saturday Nov. 18, 2023.
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Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi/AP

Zambia

Zambia is dealing with one of its worst cholera outbreaks in recent years as 351 people have died and nearly 9,000 active cases have been registered. Health workers say they are scrambling to contain the crisis that has the potential to be the worst the country has seen since the first in 1977.

On Friday, relatives of people being treated gathered outside a stadium in the capital Lusaka to wait for information about their loved ones.

“They are announcing names here, but (inaudible) my nephew. So I don’t know what is going on. Whether my nephew is dead, I don’t know. Whether he is alive, I don’t know” uncle of a cholera patient said.

President Hakainde Hichilema has urged people to relocate from towns to villages as poor sanitation in some densely populated urban areas was a good breeding ground for cholera.

The prohibition of funerals and family burials has remained in place. More emergency rules are being brought according to the country’s health ministry. 

“I’ve told them that they cannot participate in burials, and I also told them that they cannot have funerals at their homes. I also told the general public not to attend funerals anymore” says Sylvia Masebo, Zambian Health Minister.

“To avoid those funerals, especially if someone has died from cholera because they are risking their lives. I think in the beginning it was a bit difficult, but I can tell you that, generally I think, the message is sinking.”

Cholera is transmitted through the ingestion of contaminated food and/or water. Experts have suggested climate change to be responsible for heavy rainfalls which contaminated drinking water for those living in crowded, poorer areas.

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