“Hearing about the outbreak made us very curious, as we had not experienced anything like that in our community before,” says Monica Phiri (32). Monica is a mother of five and lives with her husband and children in Pembamoyo village of Vubwi District.
People of Pembamoyo are mostly seasonal farmers and grow cash crops such as maize, soya beans, and sunflower. Located beyond the mountains and water streams, while the area is green during the rainy season and produces good harvest, Pembamoyo and neighboring villages still practice open defecation, making the spread of diseases easy through water contamination.
“We received information about cholera from Mr. Mwale, a community-based volunteer, who came around to our community talking about cholera and indicating that the disease was spreading in our community. He explained to us the causes, symptoms and ways to save ourselves from catching the disease,” Monica adds.
Vubwi District reported its first confirmed case of Cholera on 21st January 2023, and the Minister of Health declared a cholera outbreak in the country on 26th January 2023. In an effort to contain the bacteria from spreading, and threatening lives, the Government activated its resources and response immediately in the district and surrounding areas.
The Government has a network of community-based volunteers who have been trained to conduct door to door visits and community awareness sessions on cholera prevention and treatment. Supporting the Government of Zambia to contain the virus and save lives of children and their families, UNICEF procured and provided 9 tons of granular chlorine, 40,000 bottles of liquid chlorine for household water treatment, yellow and black coloured bins and packs of bin liners, and 8 Acute Watery Diarrhoea kits, before the outbreak, and has been supporting community awareness sessions on sanitation and hygiene promotion, since the outbreak.
“We mobilize the community on cholera prevention through community group sessions and door-to-door visits to households,” says Yembekezani Mwale (52), a community-based volunteer in village Pembamoyo, Vubwi District. “In addition, we are also distributing chlorine to purify the water and to make it safe for drinking. Every morning, I remember that my family and I can only be safe when the whole community is safe, and that motivates me to act and work for my people every day,” he adds.
“Having received the information on cholera, I had a conversation with my husband and children as we had our evening meal. I explained to my family that we must be washing our hands regularly before preparing or eating food and after using the toilet as one of the cholera preventive measures,” adds Monica, as she heads home after the community mobilization session conducted by Yembekezani Mwale.
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 support the Government efforts to effectively fight and prevent further transmission of cholera across districts and country.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of UNICEF Zambia.