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  • Writer's pictureMichael Laxer

Cholera Still Poses Risks in Zambia Despite Decrease in Cases


View of Lusaka, Zambia -- Lupali, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons


By Global News Service


Zambia is facing its largest cholera outbreak in at least a decade, with more than 600 deaths recorded since October 2023. The number of daily cases has significantly decreased since the end of 2023—enough for the government to reopen schools after a month’s delay. But the threat is still looming, noted Sarah Nyirongo Ngoma from the Midwives Association of Zambia in an interview.


The case fatality rate remains high at 3.5 percent, as opposed to the WHO threshold of less than 1 percent. That circumstances appear better than two months ago shouldn’t be taken as reason enough for complacency, Ngoma warns. Instead, she says, both the government and international public health authorities should seize the moment to carry out more education programs. 


Equally importantly, she says, they should improve living conditions that facilitated the outbreak in the first place. One of the most significant risk factors for cholera is a lack of proper water and sanitation infrastructure—infrastructure that remains substandard for many in Zambia.


Throughout the outbreak, such infrastructure has not been improved. While the government and non-government organizations, health workers’ associations, and international agencies ensured the delivery of enough protective equipment and chlorine to cholera centers and other health institutions, strategic interventions were lacking.


In order to improve water and sanitation infrastructure, the government should be able to invest adequate resources. But this is complicated by the high debt burden that Zambia continues to carry, depleting its public services and infrastructure budget. In 2021, the country spent more on servicing debt than on investments in health, water, and sanitation combined.


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