More than 2000 cases of cholera cases have been recorded countrywide.
According to a joint statement by Minister of Health Chitalu Chilufya and his education counterpart Dennis Wanchinga, the re-opening of schools countrywide has been deferred until further notice.
“We have had an outbreak of cholera from October 6, 2017 and it has affected mainly Lusaka Province and we have recorded sporadic cases in various parts of the country,” says Dr Chilufya.
“We have recorded a total of 2047 cases and Lusaka alone is accounting for 2000 cases. Cumulatively, we have recorded 50 deaths, with Lusaka accounting for 47 deaths. We have mounted a robust multi-sectorial approach involving various sectors.”
Dr Chilufya has issued a Statutory Instrument N0. 79 of 2017 which evokes provisions of the Public Health Act to ensure that the spread of the outbreak and loss of life is prevented.
He said deferring the re-opening of the schools countrywide was to avoid many gatherings in various educational facilities.
“There are children who are coming from areas which we are describing as the epicentres of the epidemic and they will be mixing with children from other areas. There may be cross contamination and that may escalate the epidemic.
“There are also children that will be coming from the epicentres in Lusaka who may need to travel to boarding schools outside Lusaka to various parts of the country. So, we will suddenly be having a possibility of carriers and this disease will spread in various parts of the country and will spiral out of control.
“In line with the Statutory Instrument, we are restricting this particular movement. We do not want school children to move outside the epicentres to various schools where they will co-mingle with other children. Or move out of Lusaka to other parts of the country so that we start fire fighting in different parts of the country.
“So, this is an important measure and will apply to all schools nationally and we will be able to review this decision by January 30, 2018. This period will allow us to work with the authorities in the schools to look at water and sanitation facilities, correct them where need be and so there is a task force that is working to ensure that water facilities, sanitation facilities in the schools is in good shape.”
Dr Chilufya said his ministry would broadcast key messages to raise awareness to improve personal hygiene by school children before schools re-opened.
Dr Chilufya also said his ministry would further vaccinate all citizens in affected areas particularly school going children.
“This will help reduce the spread of the disease. We are targeting to begin vaccination within the next seven to 10 days and we are going to vaccinate an initial number of two million people and we hope to reach four million. This will give us an opportunity to continue correcting the issue of access to clean and safe water. Let’s be mindful that the drivers of this epidemic include consumption of contaminated water and food, poor waste management, and poor personal hygiene practices. These must be addressed,” said Dr Chilufya.
Education minister Dennis Wanchinga said postponing the re-opening of schools due to the cholera outbreak was an important decision to make.