PRISCILLA MWILA, Lusaka
FOR many years, Lusaka Province has remained one of the areas prone to cholera outbreaks during the rainy season.
The situation seemed to have been contained for almost five years after the launch of the â€˜Keep Zambia clean and healthyâ€™ campaign.
Challenges in the implementation of the â€˜Keep Zambia clean and healthyâ€™ campaign emerged when the diarrhoeal disease broke out between February and June last year.
During the 131 days of the outbreak, a total of 1,079 cases of cholera were reported and 20 deaths were recorded with government opening cholera centres in Bauleni and Kanyama. The most affected areas were Bauleni, Kanyama, George and Chawama townships.
The Ministry of Health, in conjunction with the World Health Organisation (WHO), also launched the oral cholera vaccine in Bauleni, Kanyama, George and Chawama townships and a total of 423,744 people in these areas were vaccinated out of the targeted 578,042.
To prevent another outbreak, Government and WHO have launched the second phase of the oral cholera vaccination in areas that were affected by the outbreak early last year.
The exercise was held from December 16 to 21, 2016 with the aim of reducing chances of another outbreak in the district. About 437,140 out of the targeted 421,548 people residing in the cholera-prone areas have so far received the second dose of the vaccination.
Lusaka district commissioner Davison Mulenga launched the second phase of the vaccination under the theme, â€˜Together, letâ€™s kick out choleraâ€™ in Lusakaâ€™s Chawama township.
Lusaka district medical officer Gideon Zulu said in an interview that the vaccine increases the bodyâ€™s capacity to resist cholera but does not protect people against other types of diarrhoeal diseases.
Dr Zulu has since urged the public to apply good hygiene practices as a key prevention measure.
The good hygiene practices include treating drinking water by boiling or using chlorine, keeping toilets clean and covered, washing hands with soap after using the toilet, before preparing food and before eating, among others.
â€œMinistry of Health has been having epidemic preparedness meetings with stakeholders such as the Zambia Disaster Management and Mitigation Unit (DMMU), Lusaka City Council (LCC), and Lusaka Water and Sewerage Company (LWSC) to ensure that the country has put in place adequate measures to handle any outbreak,â€ he said.
Evelyn Phiri, a resident of Bauleni township, said community members in the area are working together to ensure that their environment is kept clean.
Ms Phiri said the community has also resorted to reporting people that are disposing of garbage in undesignated areas to the relevant authority.
â€œWe donâ€™t want to experience cholera in this area again thatâ€™s why we are now reporting people that are throwing garbage anyhow. We are also teaching our children on the importance of washing their hands and using the toilet when answering the call of nature,â€ she said.
And LCC public relations manager Habeenzu Mulunda said the council is committed to ensuring that garbage is collected timely to prevent cholera outbreaks.
Mr Mulunda said the council will not tolerate people who indiscriminately dispose of garbage. He, however, said the council needs assistance to effectively contain the situation from the communities to prevent the possibility of another cholera outbreak.
â€œWe are still collecting garbage, especially in the areas that were affected by cholera last year. The process is an ongoing exercise but we will not hesitate to reprimand those found disposing of garbage in undesignated areas,â€ he said.
Mr Mulunda said LCC has started disseminating information on the importance of keeping the environment clean and ensuring that garbage is deposited in the designated places.
He said the council is disseminating information through community outreach activities and adverts on radio and other media.
And Minister of Water Development, Sanitation and Environment Lloyd Kaziya said Government would soon make tributary drainages in Lusaka that will direct water to a dam that will be built at the end of the drainages to avoid floods during the rainy season.
He said floods are also a major contributor of water-borne diseases such as cholera and typhoid, among others, hence, the need to work on drainages to avoid floods.
Mr Kaziya said the project will later be rolled out to other parts of the country to prevent chances of future cholera outbreaks.
â€œWe want to avoid floods in Lusaka by channelling and harvesting the water at a dam that will be constructed downstream of the drainages. This will be a gradual process and we ask the public to be patient,â€ he said.
Mr Kaziya said there is need to stop working on drainages during the rainy seasons as it makes work difficult for builders but ensure that permanent structures are built.
He has appealed to the public to apply good hygiene practices as a preventive measure of cholera outbreak during the rainy season.
PRISCILLA MWILA, Lusaka