James Zulu, LusakaZambia Red Cross Society
At least 137 people have died of cholera since the outbreak of the disease in August 2005 while 5526 cases have been treated in 26 districts of Zambia.
Lusaka has been the most hit city recording 116 deaths and admission accumulation of 4356 representing a distribution of cases percentage of 79.68%.
In a statement in Parliament, Zambian Health Minister, Honorable Syvia Masebo said of the 137 people that had died, 29 were brought in dead cases.
As at February 20, about 171 patients were still under treatment in the cholera centers, 120 of which were admitted at George township clinic in Lusaka.
Meanwhile Zambia Red Cross Society volunteers have intensified their door to door community health education in Zone 7 of Kanyama township where most of the cases originated. Ms Patricia Munyandi, who is the Red Cross Cholera Task force field coordinator said that sensitization and awareness including hygiene promotion and health education has entered the forth week with Red Cross in Zambia scaling up activities which have now reached 1,644 households and 4543 people in Kanyama compound.
“Volunteers and members of staff are on the ground spreading health messages and getting the affected communities involved in the prevention and control of cholera. So far the team is working very hard and the number of people going for treatment has been reduced in the zones where the Red Cross is carrying out these activities,” she added.
A visit to Chawama, one of the cholera centres shows that it had 52 admissions on 21st February and the sister in charge, Ms.Maureen Chikwa said that there was a reduction in the cases coming from the areas where the Red Cross is carrying out health education and sensitization. She added that Misisi compound and other parts of Kanyama compound have continued recording the highest number of cases. She said that the centre records an average of 14 cases per day.
In January 2006, the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies released a Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) of CHF 50,000 to Zambia Red Cross Society to carry out activities aimed at reducing the spread of cholera in Zambia.
Zambia Red Cross Society Secretary General, Mr. Charles Mushitu, thanked the International Federation for their usual interventions in the fight against cholera and added that volunteers in other districts of the country are already on the ground working hand in hand with their local District Health Management Boards in carrying out door to door campaigns.
“ Volunteers in Luanshya for instance have been involved in community sensitization, Garbage collection and market cleaning, drama performance in public places like markets and chlorine distribution using the monies we received from the federation” Mr. Mushitu added.
“Main other districts have started recording cases of cholera due to the increased heavy rains the country is experiencing which also requires Zambia Red Cross Society to increase the number of personnel and more resources needed to cover other areas”, said Ms. Munyandi.
The Health Minister said the current cholera outbreak had continued to show a continuous upward tread compared to the previous outbreaks and if urgent measures were not put in place, the disease would spread all over the country and the impact would be much greater than the epidemic of 2000 in which over 11,000 people were affected.
So far, all the provinces, except Western and North-Western, had been affected.
Cholera outbreak has been attributed to, among other things, the poor infrastructure planning as a result of urbanization, which had led to most of the population in the areas not being provided with adequate water and sanitation services. Poor hygiene and sanitation exacerbated preventable disease like respiratory infections, intestinal parasites, HIV/AIDS and malaria.