The Zambian government on Thursday announced that they were stepping up their health campaign to combat the cholera outbreak in the country.
Cholera, a disease that has been on the rise since October and has already claimed the lives of nearly a hundred people in the southern African country this year.
The Minister of Health, Sylvia Masebo, called for more drastic hygiene measures in households, and her counterpart in charge of Water, Mike Mposha, said that chlorine would be more widely distributed to disinfect contaminated water in the regions most affected by cholera.
Five deaths and 111 new cases of contamination were recorded in 24 hours, due in particular to heavy rainfall, which accelerates the transmission of the bacterial disease through infected water and food, said Sylvia Masebo. This is the highest daily total in 2023.
There have been 93 deaths this year from this acute diarrheal infection, most since October, according to the National Institute of Public Health.
“Our nation is facing a major health challenge,” Ms. Masebo told a press conference. The mortality rate of the current epidemic, around 3%, is “very worrying”, she added, bearing in mind that internationally, it is less than 1%.
Zimbabwe, Zambia’s neighbor also affected by cholera, has declared a state of emergency.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 250 deaths have been recorded since February.
The WHO has expressed concern at the growing number of cholera cases worldwide in recent years, with Africa being the hardest hit.
The number of reported cholera cases has more than doubled, from 223,370 in 2021 to 472,697 in 2022.
In 2023, there were already over 580,000 cases in September, according to the UN health agency.
Zambia is also facing its worst anthrax epidemic since 2011. Kenya, Malawi, Uganda and Zimbabwe have also recorded cases of anthrax this year, with a total of 20 deaths and some 1,100 suspected cases in these five countries as of mid-December.