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Zambia begins cholera vaccination as authorities record 363 deaths

Zambia has commenced the administration of the oral cholera vaccine. On Tuesday authorites rolled out some doses in in Matero township, one of the affected shanty compounds of Lusaka, the country’s capital, most affected by the current outbreak.

The countrywide cholera outbreak has so far killed 363 people, 30% of which were children under the age of five, and sickened more than 9,500, according to health authorities.

The outbreak, which started in early October has spread to most parts of the country but the largest number of recorded cases are in the capital city of Lusaka.

Authorities mobilised resources to contain the outbreak and opened a main treatment centre at the Heroes Stadium in the city. The outbreak also prompted the government to postpone the reopening of schools, which were meant to start on 8 January, as the country tries to battle the deadly waterborne disease.

On Monday Zambian authorities accepted the first batch of 1.4 million oral cholera vaccines handed over on Monday by GAVI, the Vaccine alliance and other partners.

Speaking at a news conference in Lusaka where the vaccines were handed over, Minister of Health Syliva Masebo thanked various partners including the World Health Organisation and the United Nations Children’s Fund.

“The WHO International Coordinating Group on Vaccine Provision approved over 1.7 million doses of oral cholera vaccines for use in Zambia,” she said.

“About 1.4 million doses have already been received in the country in four separate shipments between the 11th and the 14th of January, 2024. The remaining balance of over 200,000 will be made available to the country soon,” Masebo added.

Cholera outbreaks in Zambia coincide with the rainy summer season, which leads to heavy rainfall causing severe flooding of many areas.

Murky water could be seen flowing down the streets as children played in dirty puddles.

Inadequate waste water management systems, and a lack of access to clean drinking water in many under serviced and informal settlements of Lusaka lead to outbreaks of cholera.

Director General of Zambian National Health Institute, Professor Roma Chilengi thinks, however, the epidemic may have peaked.

“The epidemic curve seems to hit the max, the peak,” he said.

“It is too early to call and it does look like the indications over the last 4 days we have consistently registered fewer daily numbers which is a good sign.”

The current 2023/2024 rain season has seen unusually heavy rain storms.

 

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