Cholera Threatens Lives of Children and their Families in Parts of Zambia
UNICEF responds to Cholera Outbreak in Eastern Province of Zambia
Vubwi District, Zambia, 23 February 2023 – On the 26th of January 2023, the Government of Zambia declared a cholera outbreak in the country with confirmed cases reported from Vubwi District in the Eastern Province and in Mwansabombwe District of Luapula Province. Since then, UNICEF is scaling-up its support to the Government and other partners by providing critical supplies, services, and technical assistance across the sectors of water sanitation and hygiene (WASH) and health; while also supporting risk communication and community engagement (RCCE), and social and behavioral change (SBC) activities.
“We are Community Based Volunteers (CBV’s), trained to conduct door to door visits and community group sensitization sessions, that we have been carrying out since the outbreak of cholera in our district,” says Sintinon Banda, a 22-year-old community-based volunteer, in Vubwi District, Zambia. “My fellow volunteers and I gather every morning to plan for the day, agreeing on populations to cover across our assigned areas of work. The people of Vubwi are quite welcoming and not only do they attend the awareness sessions in full strength regularly, but also practice the advised actions with us, to save their children and themselves from cholera,” he adds.
Sintinon is a resident of Nyongani village, located at the shared border between Malawi, Mozambique, and Zambia. Every morning, Sintinon crosses a stream of water to reach the neighboring villages and the Mabvtuto Camp, where people live in small houses made of bamboo leaves and sticks. The hard-to-reach community of Nyongani largely remains deprived of access to most of the basic elements that enable a safe and healthy life and is now even more impacted due to the floods and the Cholera outbreak
I belong to the same community that I am assigned to by Mlawe health post. And as a resident of this village, I would like to see the outbreak contained and not spread any further. I look forward to seeing a safe Vubwi District
From the time that Vubwi recorded the first case of Cholera outbreak, the Ministry of Health, Zambia, activated its resources and response with support from UNICEF, ensuring that along with the awareness on cholera prevention, medical and water purifying supplies also reach the affected district – to contain the spread, and save precious lives.
As part of emergency preparedness, UNICEF procured and provided 9 tons of granular chlorine, 40,000 bottles of liquid chlorine for household water treatment, yellow and black colored bins and packs of bin liners, and 8 Acute Watery Diarrhea kits, before the outbreak, and has been supporting community awareness sessions on sanitation and hygiene promotion, since the outbreak.
“The community awareness and mobilization sessions are interactive and participatory. I belong to the same community that I am assigned to by Mlawe health post. And as a resident of this village, I would like to see the outbreak contained and not spread any further. I look forward to seeing a safe Vubwi District,” says Sintinon, as he packs up after a day of household visits and community sessions on Cholera prevention.
22-year-old Sintinon is a community champion, who not only informs and demonstrates the good practices, but also includes the members of the community in the sessions, encouraging them to participate and practice the actions, like handwashing with soap, and treating the water among others.
“The community awareness sessions have helped us understand the situation, the threats and the necessary actions that we can take to prevent the disease from spreading,” shares Fabian Sakala, (39), a community member. “Previously, we would only hear about cholera outbreaks in other parts of the country, unaware of what it is and what we can do to save ourselves, but now we know. It makes me happy to see that our community is receiving information on this disease and is taking measures,” he adds.
The Government of Zambia has identified 20 districts in the country as cholera hotspots with a population of two million at risk. The situation is exacerbated by the continuous rainfall causing flash floods in over 38 districts, across the country. This has further compromised water quality and sanitation conditions thus increasing the risk of outbreaks of water borne diseases and threatening the lives of millions of children and their families. In addition to the procurement and delivery of the supplies, UNICEF is also facilitating social and behavior change activities through national television, national radio and 40 community radio stations. The messages include public service announcements on cholera prevention and advice on what to do in case of infection. UNICEF remains committed to supporting the Government’s efforts to effectively fight and prevent further transmission of cholera across districts and the country.