WHO Aids Zambia In Cholera Vaccination Campaign, 1 Million People Targeted

The Ministry of Health and the World Health Organisation (WHO) embarked on a cholera vaccination campaign yesterday, January 10, to help curtail the outbreak of the disease.

Latest official figures put the number of cases at 2,672, including 63 deaths.

Two rounds of immunisations are planned. At each stage, an estimated one million people will be vaccinated against cholera, the majority hailing from Lusaka as nearly all recorded cases are cantered there.

World Health Organization spokesman Christian Lindmeier said the WHO has helped the government plan the campaign and has trained about 500 health and community workers how to administer the vaccine.

Two million doses of oral cholera vaccine from the Gavi-funded global stockpile were delivered into the country in early January, enough to immunise one million people.

Lindmeier agrees vaccination is an important measure in preventing the onset and spread of cholera. But he says access to clean water, proper sanitation and good hygiene are fundamental to stopping outbreaks entirely.

He further lauded the government’s response to remedy the ongoing situation.

“First of all, it has deployed the military to clean up parts of the city where sanitation has been poor. It has also closed a market where sanitation was poor. It has banned street vending and also public gatherings and was delaying the start of the new school semester,” he said.

According to Zambia's health authority, the campaign will bring the life saving vaccine to the people who need it most.

The WHO is currently working with the Zambia National Public Health Institute to address the underlying causes of the cholera outbreak, including clean water provision, sanitation and health education on personal hygiene.

Lindmeier added that it is critical for people to have access to treatment centres where they can easily be helped through oral rehydration or, in the more serious cases, through intravenous fluids.

The agency is also helping authorities to track down cases, treat cholera patients and provide community health education.

While sporadic cases of cholera are regular occurrences in Zambia during the five month rainy season, the number of cases this year has exceeded the average annual case load.

Cholera, an acute diarrhoeal disease, can kill within hours if left untreated. Infected people become severely dehydrated and must have their lost fluids replaced quickly if they are to survive.