Analysis: CATHERINE MUMBA
THE current cholera situation in Lusaka is disturbing, especially that numbers keep rising despite the many interventions by Government and its partners to combat it.
But what is even more worrying is the fact that people in cholera affected areas are somewhat resisting assistance being rendered to them.
President Edgar Lungu, being the highest leader of the nation, is equally concerned about the increasing numbers of people affected by the waterborne disease.
To this effect, the head of State directed Lusaka Water and Sewerage Company to start providing water to people in cholera-prone areas.
Now the most interesting part about his directive was that the water provided to the residents must not only be safe but also free of charge.
The water utility company straightaway responded to the presidential directive and started giving water to areas like Chipata, Kanyama, John Laing, Chawama and Garden townships.
Other townships also benefiting from the free water are Mazyopa and Misisi while LWSC is contemplating including Kaunda Square, Mtendere and Kabanana.
The initiative was meant to ensure that no household is exposed to contaminated water.
Nevertheless, people have still chosen to overlook the hygiene aspect and turned the free water into a business.
For example, in Chipata township, some residents have been selling the free commodity to others while opting to use water from shallow wells.
Most of the residents believe that there is nothing hazardous about washing plates and clothes using water from the wells, not knowing that germs are easily carried and spread.
They are jeopardising their health over small amounts ranging between 50 ngwee and K2 for a 20 litre container.
This whole scenario explains the need for people in peri-urban areas to be educated on issues of hygiene.
Cholera will easily be combated if people in affected areas also take up the responsibility of upholding personal hygiene practices like merely washing their hands often.
Government and its partners may try as hard as they can to contain the spread of cholera, but only until people in affected areas come in to play their role will the fight be won.
According to a research by the Zambia National Public Health Institute (ZNPHI), cholera in Lusaka is being caused by contamination of water.
The findings revealed that much of the underground water in Lusaka is contaminated with a germ called Vibrio cholera.
In this case, there is some kind of communication between underground water and faecal matter thereby contaminating it.
This revelation therefore requires every person’s effort to ensure that they boil and chlorinate water before drinking it.
It is also far much better to completely stay away from shallow wells to avoid any possible risks of being in contact with contaminated water.
Another setback, though, is that the chlorine being distributed by Government and its partners is also being sold by some residents who do not see any use for it.
As it is usually the case, some people would rather make money at the expense of their own health.
It is a matter of urgency and significance that cholera is contained to prevent more deaths.
Therefore, let no one frustrate the stakeholders’ efforts to combat this disease by not reciprocating positively to the measures being put in place.
Keeping one’s surroundings clean should be taken as a delight and not a burden.
The phrase “Cleanliness is next to godliness” is an obligation which should not leave any person’s mind.
There is need for communities to also change their attitude towards the disposal of waste, especially when Lusaka starts receiving heavy rains.
Growing up in a peri-urban area, I am aware of how some people opt to dispose of garbage on roads when it is raining heavily with a conviction that it will be ferried to nearby streams.
Now, unfortunately, what happens is that the flow of water reduces when it stops raining, causing the garbage to stop moving.
It could stop at anyone’s doorstep and the pressure will be on the victim to start cleaning.
Hopefully such kind of acts will be avoided this season. The disease has already claimed over 20 lives.
Minister of Health Chitalu Chilufya has also been very passionate about combating cholera as he recently led the way by conducting a cleaning exercise of Lusaka’s New Soweto market.
Dr Chilufya conducted the exercise along with Minister of Local Government Vincent Mwale, Minister of Water Development, Sanitation and Environmental Protection Loyd Kaziya and Lusaka Province Minister Japhen Mwakalombe.
Ministry of Health officials were also at hand to take part in the exercise.
This demonstrates the level of commitment our national leaders have placed towards ensuring that lives of all citizens are protected.
With all these measures that have been put in place, it is everyone’s responsibility to join in and ensure that this fight is won.
The key message is: surroundings should be kept clean at all times, water should be boiled and chlorinated, hands should be washed, food from the street should be avoided and a high level of hygiene should be embraced.
The author is a Zambia Daily Mail correspondent.