27 October 2009

Zambia: Lusaka Declares War Against Malaria, Cholera

LUSAKA District Commissioner Christah Kalulu is confident and she has every reason to be. Hopefully this year the busy cosmopolitan city of Lusaka will have fewer cases of cholera and malaria, and suffer less disaster than it has during rainy seasons over the past decade.

This follows the successful implementation of the District Disaster Reduction (DDR) programme which was launched on August 18.

The DDR programme, was an immediate response to the nearly endemic occurrences of cholera-a water borne disease that has claimed many lives and the devastating effect of floods in the rainy season.

By June 2009, 162 deaths occurred countrywide out of 7,587-reported cases of cholera. Lusaka alone had a mortality rate of 30.

After battling hard with a high case load of cholera last year and not wanting to see a repeat of the incidence, Lusaka DDR committee came up with a new and effective intervention measures.

The measures were adopted from the United Nations (UN) lead Programme on Risk Reduction- a global platform on risk reduction currently shared worldwide.

"This is to try and implement programmes well in advance of any disaster period so that we can lessen the impact on lives, livestock, infrastructure and communities," said Ms Kalulu in an interview.

The whole exercise is expected to cost K12.5 billion and so far Lusaka District has raised K5.2 billion from DDR's own resources since the intervention came as a post budget strategy.

The funds are meant to cover health, water and sanitation, bridges and crossings, garbage collection and drainage clearance.

Barely six months in office, Ms Kalulu and then provincial minister, Mr Lameck Mangani worked round the clock to stem the spread of cholera after Mandevu, John Laing, Lilanda, Kanyama and Chawama townships recorded the highest incidences.

Being a water-borne disease, cholera thrives on dirty surroundings and in areas with poor water and sanitation facilities hence the higher prevalence in densely populated peri-urban townships.

The Disaster Management and Monitoring Unit (DMMU) which falls under the office of the vice-president, made available temporary water tanks and mobile lavatories in high-risk areas to try and reduce the impact of the disease.

But this plan was only for that particular season. Sustained and systematic action was required.

That is why the Lusaka District Commissioner together with the area Members of Parliament and members of the community brainstormed in order to bring to birth a plan of action.

"This (plan) will perhaps help answer questions on why we have priority areas like Mandevu and Kanyama.

This is because these are very high disaster risk-areas. I am happy that we are almost done with them such that by the time the rains start, we would only be talking of the less prone areas like Kamwala, " Ms Kalulu said.

Last year, areas like Mandevu experienced floods that left a trail of destruction largely due to the blocked drainages and unplanned construction.

"The whole lot of that junction in Mandevu was totally flooded with cars getting almost submerged. We looked at all those factors in these particular areas," she said.

The Lusaka District office with the help of prisoners has unblocked drainages containing stagnant water, which are not only a potential source of a cholera outbreak but also a breeding ground for mosquitoes that cause malaria.

"We have engaged Lusaka remand prison authorities to come up with a programme that will help us use the resources that we have at our finger tips. So far we are happy that most of these places are cleared and water is flowing meaning that we will also reduce on the cases of malaria because what we have done is to clear the breeding places of mosquitoes," she said.

Mindful of the hazards associated with unblocking drainages, the Lusaka DDR has bought protective clothing, which included overalls, gumboots, and facemasks. The DDR also provides meals for the prisoners.

In areas where there has been erratic water supply or no water at all, the DDR is installing permanent water reticulation stands and sinking bore holes.

"Under our department of water in collaboration with the Lusaka Water and Sewerage Company (LWSC) we have put-up 11 permanent water pipes, and we are also replacing the temporary water stands we put up last year.

"That is progress that has pleased us as well as the beneficiaries who happen to be the community itself. It is an achievement made barely three months after the launch of the programme in August. " We cannot continue to see the same problems the district has been facing year- in year-out without a lasting solution," Ms Kalulu said.

Such programmes however cannot succeed without the participation and interest of the community and it is for this reason that Ms Kalulu has embarked on a sensitisation crusade to educate the community on the importance of hygiene.

Some of the programmes will include drama with the Muvi Television soap, Banja crew and musicians like Joe Chibangu.

With DDR programme in place, it is likely that Lusaka District will see the flip side of the annual calamity this year.

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