(By Peter Sukwa , Edwin Mbulo and Chambwa Moonga)
SOME medical doctors at the Heroes Stadium treatment centre have warned of a worse crisis if the cholera outbreak is not contained in the next two weeks. Minister of Health Dr Chitalu Chilufya on Wednesday disclosed that cholera cases had reached almost 3,000 as at two days ago, with 67 deaths recorded countrywide.
The United States government has since sent a team of cholera experts to help Zambia contain the deadly water borne disease, which kills within a few hours of infection.
The British government has also committed £3.7million for the cholera fight. In Zambia, several corporate institutions such as Zanaco, MTN, Delta Energy and Neria Investments have equally committed funds to the Zambian government towards the cholera fight. When the disease got out of control, President Edgar Lungu ordered the army to step in and help clean up the city to contain the disease.
So far, trading areas around Lusaka and other towns around the country have been raided, with the soldiers dismantling trading stands for average Zambians who were conducting their businesses there.
“If the pace of cholera infection continues like this without control in two weeks’ time, it means we will have a bigger problem because even doctors working at Heroes are living in fear because they are not safe with alarming cases. The number of new patients is not reducing, it’s increasing. Today (Tuesday), President Lungu came to visit patients but only stayed for less than five minutes and left because the cholera situation was not safe for him, it’s serious,” the medical source said.
He said the government was negligent not to have promptly acted to contain the first outbreak of cholera in Lusaka’s Mazyopa area in October last year.
“The cases of cholera were known way back in October last year by government when the first outbreak was recorded in Mazyopa compound, but no serious steps were taken by government. Government took it lightly until now that it has reached alarming levels,” complained the doctor.
He explained that cholera stays longer on dry surfaces but becomes active and spreads very fast when exposed to water or moisture.
“It is luck that Lusaka and many parts of the country have no rains because the spread of cholera was going to be deadly and difficult to stop by now. Cholera bacteria has a very long lifespan, it can stay on dry surfaces for long but the moment it is exposed to moisture or water, it becomes active, within four hours, one must start vomiting and diarrhea,” said the doctor.
” Zambians must avoid eating anything and anywhere as long as it is food, like pork. Cholera is a matter of hygiene and people must select what to eat, where to eat from. Most importantly, people must observe basic hygiene rules like eating warm covered food, washing hands after using the toilet and the rest to avoid further spread.”
Meanwhile, the UK government is providing £3.7million [K51,430,000.00 equivalent] over four years 2016-2020 to the World Health Organisation (WHO) to support Zambia prepare and respond to health emergencies, including the current cholera outbreak.
According to a statement, High Commissioner to Zambia Fergus Cochrane-Dyet said the British government was working through the UKAid in partnership with the Zambian government to tackle the outbreak of cholera and prevent its spread.
“The UK government is providing a total of £3.7million (K51,430,000.00 equivalent) over four years (2016-2020) to the World Health Organisation (WHO) to support GRZ to prepare and respond to health emergencies, including the current cholera outbreak. The UK has assisted the Ministry of Health to train 128 health workers in Lusaka districts in integrated disease surveillance and response, provided vehicles, cholera treatment and prevention kits, supplies for diagnosis and information/communication materials,” High Commissioner Cochrane-Dyet said.
He further expressed his sadness at the loss of lives to cholera.
“I am saddened by the increase in cholera cases and wish to express sympathy to those who have been ill or lost loved ones over the festive season,” he said.
And DFID Zambia’s Head of Office, Mark Richardson, said the UK working in partnership with the Zambian government was also providing expertise and financial support to improve outbreak preparedness and response.
“The Department for International Development is working actively with the government of Zambia and co-operating partners to tackle the current outbreak of cholera. We encourage the Government, working with the World Health Organisation and UNICEF, to establish clear and effective coordination mechanisms to provide a rapid and effective response to the crisis,” said Richardson.
And the UPND and its leader Hakainde Hichilema have fulfilled their pledge to donate assorted items to be used in the ongoing efforts to combat the cholera epidemic.
“As guided by our country’s health personnel, today, through our party deputy secretary general, Patrick Mucheleka, we delivered an assortment of items to the Zambian government through the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Local Government towards the fight against cholera,” Hichilema stated in a brief statement.
“In doing this, we are honouring the pledge for material support following our recent visit to some selected cholera centres in Lusaka. We hope this goes a long way in helping towards the national concerted efforts in combating this epidemic.”
He thanked the country’s health personnel, men and women in uniform for their selflessness and commitment throughout the current national tragedy.
Hichilema called for unity in combating cholera regardless of one’s political affiliation.