ZAMBIA – Although Cholera is a preventable disease, it remains a significant public health problem globally.
Each year, there are 1.3 to 4.0 million cases of cholera, and 21,000 to 143,000 deaths worldwide. Zambia has experienced cholera outbreaks since 1977 and the country’s last major outbreak lasted from October 2017 to June 2018 with a total of 5,935 reported cases and 114 deaths.
The risk factors mainly include inadequate access to clean and safe water, poor sanitation facilities, poor solid waste management and consumption of contaminated food.
In 2019 the Zambian government committed itself to an ambitious target of eliminating cholera by the year 2025 ahead of the Global Taskforce on Cholera Control’s 2017 global strategy which aims to reduce cholera deaths by 90% and to eliminate cholera in as many as 20 countries by 2030.
Approximately 3.5 million people live in cholera hotspots in Zambia. Targeting cholera hotspots as a priority has helped focus cholera control programmes on the most vulnerable populations.
Since January 2021, the Ministry of Health has worked in collaboration with other line ministries with support from the World Health Organization and other partners to conduct cholera vaccination in the country.
The launch of the first round of the cholera vaccination in the rural district of Ngabwe on 4 June 2021 put a spotlight on the OCV campaign in the country.
It also highlighted the importance of the use of Oral Cholera Vaccines (OCV) in conjunction with improvements in water and sanitation to control cholera outbreaks and for prevention in areas known to be high risk for cholera.
The World Health Organisation has supported the country in conducting the situation analysis, mapping of the hotspots and has worked with the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunizations (GAVI) and the Global Task Force on Cholera Control (GTFCC) to ensure that the country receives the life-saving vaccines.
It has also advocated for a multisectoral approach in implementation of high impact interventions particularly improving access to water and sanitation facilities.
The WHO Representative, Dr. Nathan Bakyaita was also present in Ngabwe district and stated that WHO remained committed to working with other UN agencies to support the implementation of the country’s multi-sectoral plan on the elimination of cholera.
The OCV campaign has been conducted despite the on-going COVID-19 pandemic. The government has committed itself to continuing the provision of other essential health services in order to safeguard the gains made in health and to promote the health of the population
There is a strong commitment to ensure 85% of the Zambian population living in the hotspots are vaccinated with the cholera vaccine.
Recently, Ethiopia, with the help of WHO launched a campaign to vaccinate 2 million people against cholera to prevent a catastrophic outbreak.