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Bernadette Deka-Zulu (PhD Researcher-Public Enterprise)

AS the country grapples with the relentless challenges confronting its water utility companies, a new and pressing crisis has cast its shadow – the outbreak of cholera.

In a nation where access to safe water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) services is already a critical concern, the emergence of cholera has magnified the urgency for immediate action.

In this revised article, we delve into the profound impact of the cholera outbreak, unravel the heightened complexities it adds to the existing WASH issues, and present imperative measures to confront this pressing public health threat head-on.

The well-being and health of communities hinge on a swift and concerted response to secure access to clean water and sanitation facilities.

Challenges amplified: Overcoming the intersection of cholera and WASH struggles

The collision of the cholera outbreak with pre-existing WASH challenges paints a stark picture of vulnerability in Zambia. Communities already grappling with limited access to clean water now face an even more formidable foe in the form of a waterborne disease.

Dilapidated sanitation facilities in urban areas and inadequate sewage systems in rural regions compound the risk of cholera transmission. Outdated water treatment plants struggle to meet the demand for safe water, exacerbating the vulnerability of communities.

The intricacies of responding to cholera demand not only immediate medical attention but a holistic approach that addresses the root causes of inadequate sanitation and water infrastructure.

In this intersection of crises, the call for resilience, innovation, and unified action echoes louder than ever. It is within this juncture that Zambia’s commitment to elevating WASH services will be tested, highlighting the need for innovative solutions and unwavering solidarity in the face of dual challenges.

Impact on communities: The devastating toll of cholera in Zambia

As we delve into the multifaceted challenges posed by the cholera outbreak in Zambia, it is crucial to shine a spotlight on the profound damage inflicted upon communities. Cholera’s insidious spread has not only jeopardised the physical health of individuals but has also wrought havoc on the social fabric and economic stability of affected areas.

Health crisis

Cholera’s toll on the health of communities is staggering. Overwhelmed healthcare facilities grapple with the surge in cases, stretching resources to their limits. Families endure the anguish of witnessing loved ones die from a preventable disease, with vulnerable populations, especially children and the elderly, bearing the brunt of the health crisis.

The aftermath of cholera extends beyond the immediate illness, leaving a lasting impact on the well-being of individuals and the community as a whole.

Social disruption

Cholera doesn’t only infiltrate the physical health of communities but disrupts the very fabric of daily life. Fear and uncertainty pervade neighbourhoods as social gatherings and communal activities come to a halt.

Schools, markets, and public spaces once vibrant with life now stand deserted, amplifying the sense of isolation and distress. The psychological toll of such disruption cannot be underestimated, emphasizing the urgent need for holistic support mechanisms.

Economic fallout

Beyond its immediate health and social repercussions, cholera inflicts severe economic damage on communities. The closure of businesses, restrictions on movement, and disruptions to agricultural activities contribute to a spiralling economic downturn.

Daily wage earners and small-scale entrepreneurs face unprecedented challenges, pushing vulnerable households deeper into poverty. The long-term economic impact exacerbates existing inequalities, underscoring the interconnectedness of health and socio-economic well-being.

Strain on resources

Communities at the epicentre of the cholera outbreak grapple with the strain on essential resources. Limited access to clean water becomes a dire reality, compounding the challenges in maintaining proper hygiene and sanitation practices.

The compounding effect of water scarcity and the heightened demand for medical resources creates a precarious situation, demanding urgent and comprehensive intervention.

In highlighting the damage wrought by cholera on communities, we underscore the urgency of a unified response. The socio-economic, health, and psychological scars left in its wake demand not just medical attention but a concerted effort to rebuild and fortify community resilience.

The intersection of cholera and existing WASH challenges amplifies the imperative for immediate action to ease the suffering of communities and pave the way for a healthier, more resilient future.

Roles of water utility companies in cholera mitigation

Water utility companies now face the dual challenge of addressing the cholera outbreak and continuing to manage existing WASH challenges.

Their roles in sourcing, treating, and distributing clean water have become even more crucial for preventing the further spread of cholera. Immediate measures are needed to ensure that affected communities have access to safe water and sanitation facilities.

Navigating crisis: Regulatory vigilance in the face of cholera’s onslaught

In the throes of the cholera outbreak, the National Water Supply and Sanitation Council (NWASCO) and the Ministry of Health emerge as stalwarts at the forefront of Zambia’s defence. Their pivotal role in responding to the crisis demands more than adherence to standard regulations; it calls for adaptive measures tailored to the urgent needs of the hour.

The regulatory bodies must wield their influence to fortify guidelines, fortify surveillance, and institute real-time adjustments to contain the contagion.

Rigorous monitoring and evaluation of water quality, a cornerstone of their mandate, now stand as imperatives to safeguard communities from the insidious threat of consuming contaminated water.

In this high-stakes scenario, regulatory agility becomes not just a necessity but a beacon guiding Zambia through the storm of dual challenges.

Global lessons: Mitigating cholera damage – Insights from South Africa and the United Kingdom

Examining the experiences of other nations, particularly South Africa and the United Kingdom, provides valuable insights into effective measures to mitigate cholera damage.

United Kingdom: A historical perspective

The United Kingdom has a history marked by successful cholera mitigation efforts, particularly during the 19th century when cholera outbreaks were rampant.

The implementation of comprehensive sanitation reforms, spearheaded by individuals like Sir Edwin Chadwick, laid the groundwork for sustained cholera prevention.

Investments in modern sewage systems, clean water supply infrastructure, and advancements in water treatment technologies played pivotal roles.

Today, the UK’s robust regulatory frameworks and ongoing investments in water quality management serve as an enduring testament to the importance of long-term planning and commitment.

Zambia can draw lessons from the UK’s historical experiences, emphasizing the need for strategic, sustained investments in infrastructure and regulatory measures to prevent cholera outbreaks.

South Africa: Proactive approaches for contemporary challenges

South Africa, in facing contemporary challenges, has adopted proactive approaches to mitigate cholera damage. The country has prioritised improving water infrastructure in vulnerable areas and implementing community education programs.

By empowering communities with knowledge about water hygiene and sanitation practices, South Africa has successfully reduced the risk of waterborne diseases, including cholera.

The integration of technological solutions, such as real-time water quality monitoring, has further enhanced their response capabilities. Zambia can learn from South Africa’s contemporary strategies, emphasising the importance of community engagement, targeted infrastructure improvements, and leveraging technology for effective cholera prevention.

Key takeaways for Zambia

  1.  Long-term infrastructure investments: Both the UK and South Africa highlight the importance of sustained investments in water infrastructure. Zambia can benefit from adopting a long-term perspective on infrastructure development to ensure the availability of clean water and effective sanitation.
  2.  Community engagement and education: South Africa’s success underscores the importance of community engagement and education. Zambia can implement tailored community programmes to raise awareness about proper hygiene practices, water conservation, and cholera prevention.
  3.  Technological solutions: The UK’s historical success and South Africa’s contemporary efforts showcase the significance of leveraging technology for monitoring water quality. Zambia can explore advanced technologies to enhance surveillance and response capabilities.
  4.  Regulatory frameworks: The UK’s enduring success in cholera prevention is rooted in robust regulatory frameworks. Zambia can strengthen its regulatory bodies, like NWASCO, ensuring adaptability and agility to address emerging crises effectively.

By studying and incorporating these lessons from global experiences, Zambia can bolster its own strategies to mitigate the impact of cholera and address the underlying challenges in the WASH sector.

Failures and recommendations amidst cholera crisis

The cholera outbreak sheds light on the failures of the current WASH infrastructure and services. Immediate recommendations include a heightened focus on infrastructure improvement, strengthening water quality regulations, extensive community engagement on cholera prevention, increased investments to address the emergency, and integrating cholera response into climate change adaptation strategies.


In conclusion, the cholera outbreak in Zambia accentuates the urgency of addressing WASH challenges. Water utility companies, regulatory bodies, and the community must collaborate to contain the spread of cholera while concurrently addressing existing WASH issues. The commitment to sustainable practices, infrastructure improvements, and regulatory measures becomes even more critical in ensuring the well-being and sustainable development of Zambia’s population during this crisis.

The potential for delivering better WASH services lies in swift, coordinated actions, and it is through these efforts that Zambia can overcome the dual challenges of cholera and existing WASH issues, creating a healthier and more resilient future for all its citizens.

For further inquiries or collaboration, please contact Bernadette Deka-Zulu at bernadettedekazulu@gmail.com.


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