Security forces fired tear gas on Monday, January 15, to disperse angry residents of the capital Lusaka who were protesting a ban on street vending imposed to contain the ongoing cholera outbreak. Some 500 people were attempting to reach the State House to deliver a petition to President Edgar Lungu. Further protests, as well as associated traffic disruptions and violence, are likely in the coming days.
The ongoing cholera outbreak has infected 3148 nationwide and left 72 dead across the country since September. The capital has been particularly hard hit, where all public gatherings have been banned, some restaurants have been closed, and shallow wells buried, in addition to the ban on street food vendors. Additionally, a curfew been has in effect since January 7 in Kanyama, an impoverished Lusaka township; the nightly curfew will run from 18:00 to 06:00 (local time) until further notice.
The authorities did ease some restrictions on January 14, allowing certain markets in the city to reopen. The Health Ministry also announced that Lusaka’s international school would reopen on January 16 and that government schools would be inspected on January 23, after which a decision regarding their eventual re-opening would be announced.
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 in 2010 affected 4500 people and resulted in 120 deaths.
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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