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Cholera alert near DRC border

The Zambian health authorities on Thursday announced a cholera in Chililabombwe and Ndola in the northern Copperbelt district near the border of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). A WHO spokeswoman told IRIN that the situation was being monitored closely. Chililabombwe is a border town lying just 100km south of the southern DRC city of Lubumbashi in an area where the UNHCR has said increased fighting could bring an influx of refugees into Zambia. Richard Kapuli, of the government health task force said four health clinics had been prepared with isolation units in the townships of Kakoso, Lubengele, Mine and Konkola. “We have made adequate preparations for cholera, including the acquisition of drugs,” he said. WHO, which provides funding for health monitoring teams, said it would step in if asked to intervene by the Zambian authorities. In the past week, the government said, 60 cases had been reported in an outbreak in the Ndola district which has already claimed four lives. Admissions to an isolation unit at the Masala clinic were reported to be steadily increasing. In a front page editorial on Thursday, the ‘Times of Zambia’ urged local authorities to take better measures against disease: “Just when everyone has started believing that cholera is a thing of the past and living at ease, the deadly disase has reared its ugly head again. The news that cholera has broken out in certain parts of Zambia poses the big question, why again?” Citing poverty, poor housing infrastructure, dirt, overpopulation, rapid urbanisation and the inability of local councils to plan ahead, it added: “Cities in Zambia are dirty and are increasingly becoming unhealthy to live in, with councils lacking the capcity to collect and dispose of sewage and solid waste, or control effluents from industry and emissions from all sorts of sources. Infrastructure and services are often unable to keep pace with the discharge of pollutants.” It feared the problems would persist with rapid urbanisation in the next century. “Unless something is done urgently, a lot of lives will be lost,” the newspaper said. “The pandemic could be worse than the 1992 outbreak which claimed hundreds of lives.”
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