Oxfam Zambia Media and Communications Liaison Officer Malama Mwila says players in the fight against cholera have paid too much attention to victims of the pandemic while ignoring the causes of the disease in Zambia.
And Malama has complained that the media has not done enough to widely cover the plight of residents in cholera affected areas.
Speaking to News Diggers in an interview on the sidelines of an Oxfam organised capacity building workshop for stakeholders in the fight against cholera, Mwila observed that there had been a lot of attention paid to victims of cholera than the root cause.
“From what I have observed, its like we are focusing more on what should be done when we are faced with cholera, we have come up with so many interventions while forgetting the very big issue, the so called elephant in the room and that elephant in the room being these institutions and what they can do to respond to the cholera challenge. The reason why the media is not reporting so much about cholera today is because they don’t have the numbers,” Mwila said.
“Yes, the cholera cases being reported have reduced, but have the underlined causes of cholera in Kanyama and George compounds gone? The answer is no, what the people of these areas are lacking are improved access to safe water, sanitation, solid waste management and latrines and good health facilities. But why isn’t that being reported? Why aren’t we talking about these facilities that are still lacking? Yes the number of cases have gone down which is a good thing. If we don’t have a cholera case in the next three days then we will just move on to the next big disaster while this one will still be brewing and waiting for the next cycle to come.
He said there was need to keep cholera preventive measures in the news headlines.
“I think the only way we are going to solve this problem permanently is by working with the media, if the underlined causes of cholera are kept on our finger tips then we can deal with it once and for all because we will be able to detect and prevent it before it can spread. The reason why someone would prefer to drink water from a shallow well two meters away from a pit latrine is not because of choice. If you put a water tap at a household level and then you put a well two meters away from the pit latrine, do you think a normal human being would prefer to drink from a well? And today we are telling people not to drink from shallow wells, but where do you think these people are going to drink from if the wells are the only things they have?” Malama wondered
“These are institutional things that we need to be addressing. How much of the CDF (Constituency Development Fund) is actually going towards Cholera prevention? Right now we have diverted a lot of CDF away from its initial purposes but how much are we putting in place to make sure that the prevention is really discovered and then are we developing comprehensive plans to address some of the issues that come along?”
Meanwhile Mwila regretted that Cholera-affected victims like street vendors had been neglected.
“There are people who were street vending, others were trading in markets but now those markets have been closed. These people haven’t been well considered because all of us are busy attending to Cholera victims and counting how many people have died. And some of you who work in various institutions had a work plan for this year, but now you can’t follow that work plan because your attention has been shifted. You can’t even go and operate from where you work because you have to go and attend to issues of cholera. We need to put in place comprehensive plans to address cholera by initiating preventive measures,” said Mwila.
“We also need to consider feedback from the communities even as we implement our responses. We love to put measures as civil societies, as state actors by just going to implement without minding the response from members of the communities. We need to reach a point where we would be able to speak to the people that we are trying to help and get their feed back. We need to make sure that the community is involved.”