Lusaka, Zambia’s capital is in the grips of a cholera crisis with 3,757 cases and 128 deaths, forcing the government to postpone school reopening by three weeks. This delay raises concerns about the 2024 academic year’s integrity.
The majority of Lusaka’s 3 million residents who are squeezed into 9,150 homes per square kilometer, live in slums. These places are at risk of disease transmission due to poor drainage and sanitation, which is increasing the cholera outbreak.
Rainy seasons which usually run from the end of October to late March causes floods, which in turn helps waterborne illnesses spread. During floods, pit latrines, a popular sanitation option in Lusaka pose a serious health risk. These latrines have an easy way of overflowing their contents hence contaminating water sources and making it easier for cholera and other waterborne illnesses to spread quickly. Children are particularly vulnerable because they frequently play near these contaminated water sources, an alarming fact that highlights how urgently this issue needs to be resolved.
The children of Zambia are facing a long-term disadvantage due to the delay in school reopening, and with the 2024 school year approaching, teachers, parents and lawmakers are desperately trying to come up with solutions. The Zambian government is under increasing pressure to speed up cholera control measures and address the underlying issues that are worsening the crisis.
By George Kande
Child Journalist from southern Africa