By Jeff Kapembwa
Lusaka - Zambia has stepped up awareness in the country against the effects of Ebola, which has once again broken out in its northern neighbour, the Democratic Republic of Congo and claimed over 300 lives.
Several public sensitisation programmes and preparedness efforts, including the installation of disease detecting gadgets, have been placed at various entry points to screen all people entering Zambia against the deadly disease.
At regional level, weekly conference calls and liaison meetings are being stepped up among the Southern African Development Community (SADC) member states to exchange ideas and initiate countermeasures to minimise the spread of Ebola that has ravaged the DRC, heightened by civil strife that has affected the more than 40 million people of the former Belgian colony.
“We have stepped up various measures to ensure that Zambia and the rest of the region are fully prepared to counter any effects of Ebola. At home (Zambia), we have embarked on sanitation meetings in various parts of the country while manning all border points to ensure all entries are disease free,” Kennedy Malama, Permanent Secretary - Administration in Zambia’s ministry of health told The Southern Times in an interview.
“At regional level, we are having regular meetings through conference calls to compare and share ideas on how best we can avoid the spreading of the disease from one country to another. Ideally, we have put in concerted efforts to ensure the region is secure while seeking to assist our colleagues in the DRC,” Malama said.
Earlier, the Zambian health minister, Chitalu Chilufya, disclosed that government has been boosting its preparedness for any disease outbreak with the launching of the rapid response programme.
A practical training programme for rapid response teams for diseases outbreaks has been set up with over 10 people from various cadres of medicines being trained in border districts in preparedness for any possible outbreak of diseases such as cholera, Ebola and typhoid.
He says Zambia has received financial support from DFID and technical support from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and World Health Organization. He did not disclose how much Zambia has received from donors apart from stating that the strengthening of health security is of paramount importance in improving the health system.
“We are neighbours with Congo where Ebola is regular, we are neighbours with Zimbabwe which has recorded more than 8,000 cases of cholera with high fatality, so we cannot leave anything to chance apart from intensifying surveillance and ensure we secure all border and other entry points and where we suspect high fever, we quarantine until we are sure of no Ebola at all.”
The heightened civil strife among political players ahead of the December 23 poll has frustrated efforts to fight the disease, which has claimed over 300 lives as medical experts work round the clock to find a lasting solution and save more lives.
A report by Doctors without Borders, MSF, shows that DRC declared their 10th outbreak of Ebola in 40 years.
As at 18 November, 366 cases have been recorded with 319 deaths confirmed. As at 1 August this year, there has been an increased threat in most parts of the country where there is a lack of clinical attention frustrated by fighting among warring parties.