According to the Metrological Department, we still have until the end of November before the rains saturate the soil, but the Ministry of Health has already recorded hundreds of cholera cases. Some people are surprised; we are not. We are not surprised because we know this is how our government operates.
Like we stated in the 29th edition of our publication, our government is used to spending money on disaster management and mitigation rather than disaster forecast and prevention. Our government prefers to ‘manage’ and ‘mitigate’ the disaster after it has already occurred. That way, no one would blame them for spending so much money and failing to prevent a disaster. What they don’t want is accountability, and the best way to avoid accountability is to sweet-talk citizens into believing that disaster mitigation is a long-term solution.
Many Zambians have tolerated this approach by their government. As long as the office of the Vice-President sends a Disaster Management and Mitigation Team to an affected area, not even our members of parliament will ask why there is no permanent solution to routine disasters. Meanwhile, people are getting allowances from the same problem every year.
This is exactly what is happening in Lusaka today. Government officials have issued public statements banning mass gatherings in highly populated compounds. They don’t want residents from low density neighbourhoods; the suburbs to mingle with their fellow citizens who are bathing in cholera water. According to Dr Chitalu Chilufya, government doesn’t want the spread of cholera to other parts of the City and let alone other parts of the country. In the meantime, the number of infected people is rising and rising fast, with the onset of rains.
Ministry of Health officials have put up cholera centres in Kanyama and other cholera infected compounds, giving a picture to the victims that their government cares so much about their lives. They are distributing chlorine and other disinfectants to cholera patients; teaching them how to treat their drinking water so that they don’t get sick again.
The people of Kanyama have been convinced that there shall never be a year when they won’t suffer or die from cholera. It’s part of their nature; the only thing they can do is to show gratitude to the government for sending them chlorine.
But this is an insult to the dignity of mankind. It is a show of disrespect to ‘low class’ citizens. When your government focuses on treatment but ignores prevention of diseases, know that you don’t matter that much; you are nothing but a statistic in their database. If you die, they simply move your name from the infected list to the death toll.
We say this because the cholera that has hit Lusaka did not come as a surprise to the government. They knew way ahead of time that during this period, residents of Kanyama would be sick. In fact we even wonder why they mock people by saying there is a cholera outbreak, instead of just saying cholera has commenced in Kanyama, as they saw it coming.
It is not cholera alone that our government anticipated but did not prevent. Three weeks ago, Minister of Transport and Communications Brian Mushimba, warned Zambians that they would suffer from several other preventable disasters, which the government did not care to prevent.
“The nation is being informed that the 2017/2018 rainy season may experience floods. Possible infrastructural damage especially to civil structures such as roads, bridges and culverts are expected. Prevalence of fungal and water borne diseases such as cholera, dysentery and typhoid are also expected. There will be an increase in mosquito breeding sites leading to increased threats of malaria transmission; and occurrence of army worms across the country is also expected,” said Mushimba.
True to Mushimba’s warnings, this is exactly what is happening already in Lusaka – floods and water borne diseases in the same compounds that were affected last year and all the previous years. Why isn’t our government getting down to the bottom of this problem and resolving it permanently?
It does not take an engineer to know why cholera affects the same compounds in Lusaka every year. The logic is simple; houses in these compounds are not serviced by running water. People have dug boreholes where they draw water, not far from pit latrines. Meanwhile, there are no sewer drainages or disposal sites constructed, leaving all form of waste to percolate into the ground and contaminate the water table where the borehole taps drinking water.
This is the challenge that our government is grappling with year in, year out. Those who are in government don’t seem eager to find a solution for the people of Kanyama, yet these are the compounds that produce the most votes during election time.