The Minister of Health, Dr. Chitalu Chilufya has reiterated the government’s commitment to ending the on-going cholera outbreak which has affected all the six sub-districts in the capital of Lusaka through a multi-sectoral response. Since the outbreak was declared on 6th October 2017, it has affected more than 2750 people with more than 50 deaths. In addition to the various interventions which have been put in place to address the drivers of the cholera epidemic, the World Health Organization working with other partners is providing support to the Ministry of Health in conducting a cholera vaccination campaign targeting a total of two million people in the high risk areas. WHO has facilitated the shipment of the needed 4 million doses of vaccine which has been made possible through support from the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI). Half of the shipment has been delivered and is being used for the first round of the immunization campaign which commenced on 10 January 2018 while the rest is expected in February at the time when the second dose will be given.
Speaking at the official launch of the oral cholera vaccination campaign in Kanyama, which is one of the worst hit sub-districts, the minister of health, Dr. Chitalu Chilufya said that there was a downward trend in the number of cases and that he was confident the trend would continue as a result of the multi-sectoral approach that had been put in place. The minister appreciated all the stakeholders who had contributed to the fight against cholera. He emphasized the fact that the cholera vaccination was an important intervention which also provided government the opportunity to put in place interventions to address the risk factors through provision of safe water and sanitation and waste management services in the communities.
Support for the fight against cholera has come from both the public and the private sector. At the official launch of the oral cholera vaccination campaign, the Zambia National Commercial Bank donated one million and five hundred kwacha which is targeted at purchasing 130 ten thousand litres capacity water tanks which will be used to provide safe drinking water in the affected communities. The representative from the bank, Mr. Simon Chuma emphasized the fact that the fight against cholera needed a multi-sectoral approach. “It is something that cannot be left to government alone”. He said.
The WHO Representative, Dr. Nathan Bakyaita has emphasized the importance of the cholera vaccine. “This campaign brings a life-saving oral cholera vaccine to the people who need it most, but communities should not ignore basic preventative measures”. He said. Dr. Bakyaita also stated that the multi-sectoral response had become evident with substantial support to government for addressing the drivers of the epidemic.”
The multi-sectoral response has seen the full engagement of different sectors which include: government ministries and departments; defence forces; the private sector; the United Nations; Non-governmental organisations; faith- based organizations and the media institutions. Support has come in form of deployment of volunteers to conduct health education, cleaning up the city through garbage collection, provision of clean water to the communities, donation of chlorine, printing of IEC materials, provision of transport facilities to support community mobilization including space in newspapers and airtime on radio and television for public information and education.
The WHO Country Office in Zambia has worked in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and the Zambia National Public Health Institute in combating the cholera outbreak since it was declared on 6 October 2017. WHO staff members have joined in the OCV campaign to support various activities including management and supervision of the vaccination sites, community mobilization, data management, logistics and monitoring activities.