10 January 2018

Namibia Bans Food Imports From Zambia

Photo: Nancy Palus/IRIN
A man washes his hands during cholera prevention session (file photo).

Katima Mulilo — The Namibian government has resolved to provisionally ban the importation of all perishable food, fruits, unprocessed food and water from neighbouring Zambia - where there is a cholera outbreak that has claimed 66 lives - until further notice.

Those dead are mostly slum dwellers in Zambia, New Era understands.

The ban came into effect on Monday this week - January 8 - and is necessitated by attempts to help contain the current wave of the cholera epidemic in Zambia, where it first surfaced in September last year.

Recently, one case was reported in Livingstone, Zambia, about 200km from that country's border with Namibia. This case seems to have played a part in the government banning the import of food from the neighbouring country.

Many Namibians in the eastern Zambezi Region buy - and in some cases smuggle - maize flour and fruits such as mangoes from Zambia.

Health officers from the Namibian ministry of health held an emergency meeting at the Wenela border post yesterday to inform border officials that no food items should be allowed into Namibia from Zambia.

Speaking to New Era, health officer Lempie Onesmus said health officials are on alert and have taken precautionary measures, including screening people entering Namibia from Zambia.

"When a person arrives, the health officer uses an infrared thermometer to check the body temperature [of that visitor]. If the body temperature is too high, maybe 37 degrees, the device will ring as it has a programmed alarm. It also depends on what symptoms the person has. For instance, if that person has cholera, they will be vomiting and having diarrhoea," she explained.

Onesmus however stressed that the public should not be too alarmed as the stoppage of food imports is only a provisional measure until such time the situation in Zambia returns to normal.

She added that apart from the one case reported in Livingstone, no other case has been reported in areas close to Namibia.

Meanwhile, the media in Zambia reported on Monday that cases of cholera have continued to rise in the capital Lusaka, and currently the number stands at about 2,600, while 66 people have died so far.

The Zambian government has decided to invoke statutory instrument number 79 to ban all public gatherings in affected places - such as church services, funeral gatherings and gatherings to drink at bars, among others, in order to ensure that there are no further transmissions through contact.

Analysts say Zambia should quickly put in place measures to contain cholera as the prolonged outbreak may have a negative impact on the economy and tourism of the copper-exporting nation

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