Cholera Outbreak in Zambia

01/18/2024
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    Waterlogged roads become a breeding ground for cholera bacteria. (AP)
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    People wait outside a cholera treatment center in Lusaka, Zambia. (AP)
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A cholera outbreak in Zambia has taken the lives of more than 400 people. Zambia’s national disaster agency works to save lives. But poverty, conflict, and vaccine shortages make the disease hard to stop.

The outbreak began in October 2023. Since then, the Zambia Public Health Institute has reported 10,413 cholera cases. The sickness appeared in nine of Zambia’s 10 provinces. In the capital, officials transformed a 60,000-seat soccer stadium into a treatment center. It holds about 500 patients at a time.

Cholera comes from bacteria, usually in contaminated food and drink. It spreads quickly in places without easy access to clean water. Zambia isn’t the only African nation to wrestle with this disease. The continent’s warm climate allows cholera bacteria to survive longer. Cholera cases recently appeared in nations such as Malawi, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe. Since the beginning of 2023, southern Africa has reported over 3,000 cholera deaths.

But cholera is treatable. Vaccines can prevent its spread. Most developed countries no longer struggle with this disease. When treated, it typically has a death rate of less than 1%. But in Zambia, officials report a death rate of 4%.

The problem isn’t science. So what is it?

Many of Zambia’s people live in poverty. Without clean food and water, it’s easy to contract and spread cholera. Many Zambians also struggle to get healthcare. Of the deaths reported, over half occurred before the victim could enter a treatment facility.

Weather worsens the situation too. Heavy rains caused flash floods. Warm, waterlogged land is a breeding ground for the bacteria.

On top of that, Africa’s numerous cholera outbreaks strain the vaccine supply. The United Nations usually distributes these vaccines to impoverished countries. But officials say the shortage could last until 2025.

In the meantime, trucks bring clean drinking water to Zambia’s neighborhoods. The government ordered schools to be cleaned and inspected before they re-open after the holiday break. But while poverty remains rampant, how much will those measures help?

For now, we can pray. Ask God to bring help and healing to the people of Zambia.

When He went ashore He saw a great crowd, and He had compassion on them and healed their sick. — Matthew 14:14