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January 2018: Oral cholera vaccination campaign launched in Zambia

A step towards eradicating cholera in the country

By Precious Mumbi Habeenzu
 

© UNICEF Zambia/2018/Phiri
Grandma, Esther Lungu, queuing with her grandchildren, Faides and Temwani, for the Oral Cholera Vaccine

12 January 2018 – Esther Lungu, a 61-year-old grandmother, says that despite living in Kanyama, a crowded settlement with poor sanitation, she has managed to avoid cholera, an infectious disease that causes severe watery diarrhoea that can lead to dehydration and even death if untreated.

“In all my 61 years on earth, I have never been a victim of cholera because I learnt from a very young age that cleanliness is next to godliness.” The grandmother, says, “Living in a compound like Kanyama, I get to see and witness many people I know catch the cholera germ. One has to always maintain clean and hygienic surroundings especially during those very sensitive periods such as a visit to the toilet which requires washing hands without fail before touching anything else,” says Esther, who has brought her two 8-year-old granddaughters, Faides and Temwani, to receive the Oral Cholera Vaccine (OCV). Alongside good hygiene, the vaccine, which is taken in two doses, two weeks apart, can offer protection against cholera.

The OCV campaign was launched in Lusaka Province on 10 January 2018, with the main event held in Kanyama, Esther’s residential area, a cholera hot spot, which has a population of over 370,000 people. The first 900 clients were attended to within the first two hours of starting the vaccinations while scores of people continued to line up on the crowded grounds, eager to receive the vaccine. Smaller, subsequent launches took place at other densely-populated locations in the capital, Lusaka, including Chawama, Matero, Chipata and Garden.

Speaking at the launch, the Zambia Minister of Health, Dr. Chitalu Chilufya, commended all partners and stakeholders for their continued support and announced that Zambia has just recorded a reduction in the daily infection rate which had previously stood at over 150 new cases per day. “I would like to thank all the stakeholders and partners who have continued to support us before and during this outbreak. Allow me to share that Lusaka district has today recorded 83 new cases (23 children and 60 adults) while the total under treatment stands at 179 (51 children and 128 adults),” he said.

The Minister added that 54 of the 179 people currently receiving treatment have been admitted to the cholera treatment units, while 125 are admitted at a specially set up Cholera Hospital at the National Sports Stadium. Cumulatively, Lusaka has recorded 2,755 cases of cholera of which 2,514 have been successfully treated and discharged, totalling a 91 per cent treatment success rate.
 

© UNICEF Zambia/2018/Phiri
Temwani, 8, taking the Oral Cholera Vaccine

Community outreach and engagement

While Esther heard about the call to attend the OCV campaign from health volunteers in her area, many were informed of the campaign via public service announcements which have been made in Kanyama township every day since the start of the year. Awareness campaigns will continue throughout the country while the OCV campaign continues for another five days.

UNICEF and the UN family have supported the Government’s response since the start of the cholera outbreak last October with technical support and supplies for social mobilization and health education campaigns, particularly hygiene and sanitation promotion, as well as providing drinking water treatment and essential supplies for the cholera treatment centres.

While Esther may be one of the many who understand how to prevent cholera, some residents of Kanyama have unfortunately been diagnosed with cholera. UNICEF Zambia Deputy Representative, Shadrack Omol, says, “Concurrently with the OCV vaccination, UNICEF recommends individual actions to prevent infection, including drinking and using safe water, washing hands often with soap and safe water, cooking food well and keeping it covered, as well as maintaining a clean and hygienic environment at all times.”

 

 
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