Cholera outbreak spirals in Zambia: IFRC launches urgent CHF 4 million appeal

Along with a volunteer, Zambia Red Cross Society Acting Secretary General Cosmas Sakala (left) meets with local residents as part of ongoing cholera prevention efforts.

Along with a volunteer, Zambia Red Cross Society Acting Secretary General Cosmas Sakala (left) meets with local residents as part of ongoing cholera prevention efforts.

Photo: Zambia Red Cross Society

Geneva/Nairobi/Lusaka, 15 January 2024: Responding to a severe cholera outbreak in Zambia, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has launched an emergency appeal for 4 million Swiss Francs. This fund is aimed at supporting the Zambia Red Cross Society, in its auxiliary role to Zambia’s Ministry of Health, to mitigate the impact of the outbreak on affected communities and prevent further spread.

In October 2023, a new cholera outbreak was reported and has seen an increase in transmission since mid-December, putting over 10 million people at risk. The outbreak initially emerged from peri-urban areas of Lusaka province, where most of the cases are being reported. Due to the high rate of transmission, the disease is now affecting people across multiple geographical areas. Nine out of ten provinces have reported cases of cholera, with six provinces confirming cholera outbreaks.

John Roche, IFRC Head of Delegation Country Cluster for Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Malawi, said:

“To ensure no more lives are lost, we must prioritize access to clean and safe water. With the waterborne disease spreading rapidly, we are deeply concerned about the situation unfolding. The IFRC and Zambia Red Cross Society are seeking resources to contribute to activities that can support stopping the spread and its transmission.”

Cosmas Sakala, Acting Secretary General of Zambia Red Cross Society, said:

“With increased rains and possible flooding, the cholera outbreak could escalate, and we fear that many more lives would be lost. Zambia Red Cross requires more resources to support the government in scaling up interventions such as Risk Communication and Community Engagement, enhancing access to safe water and sanitation to curtail the epidemic, and improving community case management to reduce fatalities.”

In response to the outbreak, the IFRC has allocated CHF 750,000 from its Disaster Response Emergency Fund (DREF) to support relief efforts. Zambia Red Cross Society staff and volunteers have been mobilized and are supporting cholera response activities through door-to-door visits, setting up Oral Rehydration Points where people showing signs of cholera can be rehydrated, spreading hygiene messages, and carrying out community sensitizations on cholera prevention and control. This commencement of public health education is being done in collaboration with Zambia’s Ministry of Health and UNICEF.

To continue the response, a total of CHF 4 million is needed and will support 3.5 million people.

Last year, the neighbouring country of Malawi faced one of its worst cholera outbreaks in years. Additionally, Zimbabwe is currently battling a cholera outbreak that is resulting in daily loss of lives. The IFRC remains committed to halting the spread of cholera in Zambia, ensuring that affected populations receive necessary care and support.

More information:

To learn more or support the appeal, visit our page by clicking on the link.

To request an interview, contact: [email protected]

In Nairobi:

Anne Macharia: +254 720 787 764

In Geneva:

Tommaso Della Longa: +41 79 708 43 67  

Carina Wint: +47 4139 1873

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