ANTI-CHOLERA DRIVE

THE anti-cholera drive must get into an overdrive countrywide, encompassing all stakeholder groups in the programme premised on enhanced sensitisation and cleanliness.
Many a time, local authorities and other entities tend to start planning when the rainy season is setting in, much to the chagrin of patriotic citizens.
It is wise to be proactive rather than being reactive.
Thus, all stakeholder groups such as the local authorities, Health Ministry, Zambia Environmental Management Agency (ZEMA), market associations, Non-Governmental Organisations, the media and the general citizenry must pool their resources together and get down to work.
Concepts such as the epidemic preparedness and response plan should be active rather than getting into play when cholera breaks out.
Year in year out, authorities have pointed out that cholera mostly breaks out in areas with poor sanitation and those which lack access to clean and safe drinking water and areas with dirty surroundings.
In worst scenarios, some townships are not well planned to the extent that shallow water wells are dug near pit-latrines and septic tanks.
Sadly, faecal sludge gets into underground water and the nearby water supplies.
This invariably means that people are more likely to drink contaminated water and contract cholera which spreads rapidly.
Careless garbage disposal has also been a challenge in public places and residential areas.
This is exacerbated by perennial floods especially in densely populated townships in Lusaka such as Kanyama, Kuku, Chawama, John Laing, John Howard and Chibolya.
From the previous cholera toll, the outbreak was declared on October 6 last year after a confirmation of the vibrio cholerae on two patients in Lusaka.
The figure rapidly spiralled to more than 2,000 in January this year.
By May 2018, the outbreak had affected seven of the 10 provinces, standing at an astonishing 5,905 cases, including 98 deaths.
Heavy rain had hit most parts of the country, hence weighing down on control measures.
At the time, the townships, markets and other public places had accumulated frightening mountains of garbage not only in Lusaka but also on the Copperbelt and other parts of the country.
Vendors had daringly taken over the streets, pavements and shop corridors while their conveniences were drainages, plastic bottles and plastic carrier bags.
It was a harrowing experience; it has remained a reference point.
Learning from the past, stakeholder groups must henceforth exploit all initiatives including the “Keep Zambia Clean, Green and Healthy.”
This means that the councils, market associations and public transport operators must hold hands in the cleaning exercise and in awareness campaigns.
Councils must strictly enforce the law pertaining to street vending and waste management.
In any case, on February 2, this year Local Government Minister Vincent Mwale signed Statutory Instrument (SI) number 10 of 2018 to amend penalties for 22 offences contained in SI number 54 of 1992.
In this law, penalty fees were increased while new offences were introduced.
Therefore, the councils have sufficient legal backing and muscle to manage their areas of jurisdiction effectively.
The Ministry of Health on the other hand should upscale water quality monitoring and testing, enhance surveillance, continue with epidemiologic investigations and mount anti-cholera campaigns in conjunction with the media.
ZEMA, being an independent environmental regulator and coordinating agency, must strictly protect the environment and control pollution. Anyone transgressing the law must be brought to book.
The public need to maintain high levels of hygiene and develop the right mind-set on public cleanliness.
Time is fast running out!

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