Zambia Charts the Way forward for Cholera Elimination

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The Cholera outbreak in Zambia which started in October 2017 has now been brought under control and in the next two weeks, the country is likely be declared cholera free. The Minister of Health, Dr. Chitalu Chilufya, said this at a joint media briefing held on May 17 where he made a comprehensive presentation on the Cholera situation and the next steps the country would take towards its elimination. The briefing was jointly conducted with the Minister of Local Government, Mr. Vincent Mwale, the Minister for Water Development, Sanitation and Environmental Protection, Dr. Dennis Wanchinga and the WHO Representative, Dr. Nathan Bakyaita.

Dr. Chitalu said that the current cholera outbreak had affected 5,919 people including 114 deaths. He said that the outbreak had the potential to escalate beyond the recorded figures, if government had not provided exemplary leadership to ensure that interventions that addressed the drivers of the epidemic were swiftly addressed. He paid tribute to the President of the Republic, His Excellency, Mr. Edgar Chagwa Lungu for his leadership, particularly for commissioning a committee of ministers which provided oversight for a multi-sectoral response and for making resources available. He said that government released a total of 159 million kwacha, which constituted 90 percent of the resources used while donations came to 3.3 million kwacha cash in addition to other material resources. Dr. Chitalu stated that the issuance of Statutory Instrument No. 79 of 2017 providing regulations on areas infected with cholera, Statutory Instrument no.10 of 2018 on street vending and a Gazette Notice extending the fishing ban for 2017/2018 season were also instrumental in the containment of the outbreak.

In moving forward towards the elimination of cholera in Zambia, the minister said that, Zambia had embarked upon developing a National Multi-sectoral Plan for Elimination of cholera by 2025. The priority areas include: the upgrading of slums and peri-urban areas, strengthening local government, enhancing the capacity of water utility companies and implementing the health for all agenda. Zambia would also sponsor a resolution for ending cholera globally at the 71 Session of the World Health Assembly in May 2018. Dr. Chitalu thanked all the Cooperating Partners, the private sector, the UN, NGOs, communities and the media for supporting the government in implementing various interventions to stop cholera in the country.

The Minister for Local Government, Honourable Vincent Mwale, stated that going forward, his ministry would focus on the following priority actions: implementation of the SI No. 79 of 2017 on Cholera, Keep Zambia Clean Campaign, improving sanitation in trading places, building markets across the country, putting in place legislation for regulation of waste management and improving drainages alongside the construction of the road network. He also said that the ministry was going to formulate a policy for slum upgrading in order to reduce from 70 percent to 35 percent the number of people living in slums or peri-urban areas and committed to work towards reducing the national housing deficit which stood at 2.5 – 3 million. The minister emphasised the need for government to work with investors to make low cost housing easily available because the current market was skewed towards high income earners.

The Minister for Water Development, Sanitation and Environmental Protection, Dr. Dennis Wanchinga said that the population of the country had significantly grown since independence and that there was need to provide corresponding water supply and sanitation services. He said that Zambia lacked a coherent policy on sanitation leading to inadequate services for water, sanitation and solid waste management. He said that his ministry had embarked upon developing a master plan for the provision of clean and safe water in the densely populated areas and that it was working to ensure the registration and regulation of boreholes in the country.

Speaking at the same event, the WHO Representative, Dr. Nathan Bakyaita appreciated government’s action for coordinating the response with partners at the highest level of the Government and coming up with three legal instruments which facilitated the containment of cholera. He said that in October 2017, cholera-affected countries, global donors, and partners of the Global Taskforce on Cholera Control (GTFCC) came together to launch the Global Roadmap targeting a 90% reduction in cholera deaths by 2030, with 20 countries eliminating cholera. He said that WHO was therefore committed to supporting the development and implementation of the national cholera multi-sectoral plan.

This outbreak was fueled by inadequate access to clean and safe water, poor sanitation in trading places, poor solid waste management, flooding due to poor drainage and poor sanitation at fishing camps. In order to stop the further spread of cholera, key intervention were put in place:- A total of 330 water tanks were installed for provision of clean and safe drinking water in the hot spots, active case finding and surveillance, localized case management through establishment of a cholera treatment hospital and cholera treatment units, escalated solid waste management, provision of the oral cholera vaccine, chlorine distribution in communities, water quality monitoring, health promotion and risk communication.