As of Friday, January 12, residents of the impoverished Lusaka township Kanyama are rioting over a ban on street vending that was imposed to contain the ongoing cholera outbreak. The police have been sent to the township to restore order. According to local sources, the rioters have blocked the Los Angeles Road, a major thoroughfare in the area, and police have fired tear gas to try to disperse them. Further protests, as well as associated traffic disruptions and violence, are likely in the coming days.
Authorities have also taken a number of other measures in a bid to help contain the ongoing cholera outbreak that has infected 2672 people and left 61 dead across the country since September 2017. The capital has been particularly hard hit by the outbreak. The start of Zambia’s school year, due to start on January 8, has been postponed until further notice and the University of Zambia has been closed since January 5. All public gatherings have been banned and church services have been canceled. The Zambian Ministry of Health has closed several restaurants, buried shallow wells, and expanded access to potable water in Lusaka. Finally, an overnight curfew been has in effect since Sunday in Kanyama.
Cholera is an infectious disease caused by Vibrio cholerae bacteria that can induce acute diarrhea. The risk of death is greatest among people with compromised immune systems, such as malnourished children or those living with HIV. However, even among healthy adults, cholera can be fatal within a matter of hours. There are frequent outbreaks of cholera in Zambia during the rainy season due to contaminated water, poor sanitation, and overcrowded slums. Zambia's worst cholera outbreak affected 4500 people and resulted in 120 deaths in 2010.
Individuals in the capital are advised to avoid the Kanyama area and all protests due to the risk of violence. To reduce the risk of contracting cholera, wash hands regularly, drink only bottled or purified water, and avoid eating raw or undercooked foods. Individuals who believe they may have contracted cholera should seek immediate medical attention.
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