We would be a very bad watchdog if we failed to acknowledge the impressive response that President Edgar Lungu has given the cholera outbreak in Lusaka and selected parts of the country. Others may choose to condemn him over the failure by his government to put in place preventive measures against the annual epidemic – they have the right to do so. However, it is also our responsibility as critics to give credit where a leader shows determination to achieve positive results; even if they were correcting a mistake.
It is our considered view that if President Lungu did not invoke military intervention in the cholera outbreak, we would be talking about thousands of deaths today. If soldiers, especially in Lusaka, did not seize the central business district to close all shops, remove all vendors and embark on a cleaning exercise, millions of people would have been infected by now.
Of course, the normal thing to do would have been to make a public announcement that a joint team of defence personnel would be deployed in town to help with the cleanup exercise, because civilians naturally panic when they see military wear and guns on the streets. But we would like to assume that President Lungu figured that making this announcement would have prepared the public for a resistance. Political rivals would have taken advantage and sponsored vendors to stage a revolt; something which would have made the Head of State even more unpopular.
The element of surprised has worked very well so far. For as long as he had good intentions with the plan, President Lungu was in order to instruct defence wings to take sanitary control of the Capital City. In essence, that’s what defines a leader who qualifies to be called ‘man’ of action. In fact, this development also shows that President Lungu can transform Zambia if he stopped being lazy and delegating presidential powers to his aides. But we don’t wish to take away anything form the Head of State today, because we are happy with this particular action.
The same way that we would have condemned the President if the government ran out of resources to fight cholera is the same way we must give him credit for wooing the support of the United Nations and other cooperating partners. It is because of the President’s positive will exhibited to the public that companies like Trade Kings, Avic International, MMI Integrated Steal and other, too numerous to mention, have stepped in to donate materials and financial resources towards fighting the epidemic.
We understand that some unpatriotic PF officials have taken advantage of the cholera emergency to secure supply contracts from government, outside the tender processes. We can only pray for such human being because their destiny is already known. Such crookedness must however, not deter us from acknowledging the efforts made by our government and its leaders.
Why are we heaping all this praise on President Lungu today? Well, we have done our own findings at various hospitals in Lusaka, we have spoken to sources at the Ministry of Health and other involved government institutions. We can report that the cholera outbreak is actually more serious than it is being portrayed. The crisis is far beyond what the public is seeing.
We have also closely followed the cholera statics upto the point when numbers took a sharp upward trajectory; and our observation is that Christmas and New Year celebrations exacerbated the spread of the disease in Lusaka. Residents gathered en masse to commemorate a very important date on the Christian calendar, but by then, government had not yet completely clamped down on public gatherings. On New Year’s Even, even despite a statutory instrument being issued against mass gatherings, some celebrants went ahead to party.
That is why this year’s cholera has not been contained or restricted to densely populated compounds. Up-class suburbs have also recorded cholera cases, and we are told that some shopping malls are contaminated as well as food outlets located in areas which one would consider too serene for cholera.
Given the situation above, we fill there was no better emergency response that a leader could have given than what President Lungu has done.
But let us not stop at applauding President Lungu because ministers and so many other unknown public health workers have put their lives at risk to serve and save their fellow citizens. These are the biggest heroes in this fight against the epidemic that has ravaged homes.
Honourable Minister of Health Dr Chitalu Chilufya and your team, Local Government Minister Vincent Mwale, Minister of Defence, Minister of Water Development Lloyd Kaziya, Minister of Community Development Emerine Kabanshi, Zambia Army Commander Lt. Gen. Paul Mihova, Air Force Commander Lt. Gen. Eric Chimese, Zambia National Service Commandant Lt. Gen. Nathan Mulenga and your troops have done a commendable job so far. We have no doubt that members of the public have seen how busy you have been in trying to contain the outbreak. This is how it aught to be.
We call on our fellow citizens, especially critics to desist from politicizing the cholera situation. Yes, mistakes may have been made by our government leaders, but now is no time for pointing fingers. Let’s reserve all differences and spread awareness to all those who can read and hear. Let’s share the information on how cholera can be prevented and treated.
If not treated, dehydration caused by cholera can lead to shock and death in a matter of hours. Prevent cholera by drinking boiled or chlorine treated water. For help call toll free line 909 or 0963930779; 0976904261/73; 0956513193/79. Call these lines between 08:00 hours and 17:00 hours.
Stay safe dear readers, the cholera situation is worse than you think.