Zambian authorities, in response to the escalating cholera crisis that has claimed nearly a hundred lives since October, announced intensified efforts on Thursday to tackle the outbreak.
The Minister of Health, Sylvia Masebo, emphasized the need for stringent hygiene practices in households. Simultaneously, the Minister of Water, Mike Mposha, revealed plans to expand the distribution of chlorine, a key disinfectant to purify water in areas severely impacted by cholera.
The grim situation was underscored by the recent report of five deaths and 111 new contamination cases within a 24-hour span. Heavy rainfall was identified as a significant factor, hastening the spread of the bacterial infection through contaminated water and food, as stated by Minister Masebo. This alarming daily toll in 2023 marks the highest recorded so far.
The National Institute of Public Health reported a total of 93 deaths from cholera this year, with the majority occurring since October. Minister Masebo, addressing a press conference, acknowledged the severity of the health challenge, highlighting the current epidemic’s worrisome mortality rate of around 3%, significantly higher than the international standard of less than 1%.
Cholera’s impact extends beyond Zambia, as evidenced by Zimbabwe, Zambia’s neighbor, declaring a state of emergency due to the outbreak. The World Health Organization (WHO) expressed its concern over the global surge in cholera cases, particularly in Africa, where the impact has been most severe.
The reported cases more than doubled from 223,370 in 2021 to 472,697 in 2022. By September 2023, the figure had surpassed 580,000 cases, according to the UN health agency.
Adding to Zambia’s health challenges is its worst anthrax epidemic since 2011. Kenya, Malawi, Uganda, and Zimbabwe have also reported anthrax cases in 2023, resulting in 20 deaths and approximately 1,100 suspected cases across these five countries as of mid-December. The situation remains a cause for great concern as the nation grapples with multiple health crises simultaneously.