Zambia Battles Worst Cholera Outbreak in Decades Amid Climate Change-Driven Drought

Zambia faces severe cholera outbreak driven by climate change-induced drought, straining healthcare system. Experts call for urgent action to address crisis and underlying factors, including impact of climate change on vulnerable populations.

Quadri Adejumo
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Zambia Battles Worst Cholera Outbreak in Decades Amid Climate Change-Driven Drought

Zambia Battles Worst Cholera Outbreak in Decades Amid Climate Change-Driven Drought

Zambia is confronting its most severe cholera outbreak in 20 years, with 705 deaths and over 21,000 infections reported. The crisis has been fueled by a climate change-induced drought that has driven rural populations to migrate to informal urban settlements lacking adequate sanitation infrastructure.

The southern African nation has been hit hard by the drought, which has affected critical crops and livestock, exacerbating already high food prices. An estimated 20 million people across the region are facing crisis levels of acute hunger and water shortages, persisting. While a study found that the drought was primarily driven by the El Niño weather phenomenon, experts warn that climate change is expected to increase the frequency of such droughts in the future.

The cholera outbreak has overwhelmed Zambia's healthcare system, prompting the government to declare a national health emergency. Cholera, an acute diarrheal infection caused by contaminated food or water, remains a global threat to public health, especially in areas with limited access to clean water and proper sanitation.

Why this matters: The cholera outbreak in Zambia serves as a sobering reminder of the public health risks posed by the impacts of climate change, particularly in developing countries with limited resources to address such challenges. As extreme weather events become more frequent and severe, vulnerable populations are increasingly at risk of disease outbreaks and humanitarian crises.

The World Health Organization recently prequalified the inactivated oral cholera vaccine Euvichol-S, which is expected to enable a rapid increase in production and supply. This recent development is urgently needed by communities battling the outbreak. Measures for cholera prevention include providing clean water, proper sanitation, and vaccination with oral cholera vaccines, as well as health education and good food hygiene practices.

Zambia, along with other affected countries in the region, has declared a national disaster and is mobilizing resources to help affected communities. As the outbreak continues to claim lives and strain the nation's healthcare system, experts emphasize the need for immediate action to address the crisis and the underlying factors driving it, including the impacts of climate change on vulnerable populations.

Key Takeaways

  • Zambia faces severe cholera outbreak with 705 deaths, 21,000 infections.
  • Drought driven by climate change has fueled migration to urban slums.
  • 20 million people in region face acute hunger and water shortages.
  • New oral cholera vaccine prequalified to enable rapid production and supply.
  • Zambia declares national disaster, mobilizing resources to address crisis.