ZAMBIA–Zambia has increased its vaccination campaign efforts to 1.5 million people to include children, health workers, and those at high risk of infection in the most affected areas.
This campaign aims to prevent the spread of disease and save lives as the cholera outbreak grows.
The World Health Organization (WHO), in collaboration with Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, UNICEF, and others, is assisting the government in properly implementing the oral cholera immunisation campaign and bolstering continuing outbreak control efforts.
To assist curb the outbreak, more than 1.4 million cholera vaccine doses have been sent to the country, with an additional 200,000 doses approved by the WHO International Coordinating Group on Vaccine Provision, bringing the total to around 1.7 million.
The government proclaimed a new outbreak in October 2023, which started in Lusaka province, and as of 18 January 2024, 10 887 cases and 432 deaths had been reported throughout nine of the country’s ten provinces.
The most seriously affected areas are Lusaka, Central, and Eastern provinces, with the Lusaka district serving as the core of the outbreak.
Over the last seven days, the country has seen an average of 461 new cases every 24 hours, showing that the outbreak is fast spreading.
The disease’s quick spread and the growing number of recorded cases indicate that this outbreak could be one of the deadliest in the country’s recent history.
Cholera is more prevalent in Lusaka’s densely populated regions, where there is little or no access to clean water, sanitation services, or good hygiene practices.
Dr. Nathan Bakyaita, WHO Representative in Zambia, stated that the current cholera outbreak necessitates concerted and collaborative efforts to protect citizens’ health and well-being, and WHO’s top priority is to collaborate closely with the government, local health authorities, and cooperating partners to provide immediate assistance and expertise.
He went on to explain that the epidemiological situation highlights the need for a comprehensive response that addresses root causes and implements targeted interventions.
WHO is collaborating with the government to enhance key epidemic response areas by deploying 23 experts from its Regional Office for Africa.
The professionals will assist with emergency coordination, case management, surveillance, infection prevention and control, improving water, sanitation, and hygiene services, and raising public awareness of the disease’s risks.
WHO has also provided the government with more than 14 tons of cholera kits and extra medical supplies, enough to treat around 3000 mild to severe cases of cholera, including moderate cases, at oral rehydration stations throughout communities.
The Organization is also acquiring extra supplies and equipment, including cholera beds, which will be delivered in the coming days.
The government has initiated a high-level outbreak response managed by the Disaster Management and Mitigation Unit.
Other efforts to control the outbreak include the installation of water tanks to provide communities with clean drinking water, the establishment of oral rehydration points in strategic community locations such as markets, churches, and bus stops to allow for early treatment, and public health campaigns to promote hygiene practices.
Cholera treatment centers have been established to provide medical care for severe patients, with the largest located at the National Heroes Stadium in central Lusaka.
Cholera is an acute, extremely virulent infection that spreads swiftly and causes dehydration, resulting in significant morbidity and mortality.
However, the condition is easily curable, with the majority of persons responding well to timely treatment of oral rehydration solution or intravenous fluids.
To detect, confirm, and respond rapidly to outbreaks, effective control needs the use of comprehensive measures such as increased epidemiological and laboratory surveillance.
Other control measures include increasing access to treatment, immunizations, safe water, and basic sanitation, as well as encouraging community behavior change and better hygiene practices.