THE government has a big battle on its hands and all concerted efforts are needed to eliminate the cholera outbreak that is ravaging the capital city, Lusaka and a few other towns in the country.
President Edgar Lungu, as commander-in-chief of the armed forces, took a bold decision to enforce closure of Lusaka’s central business district, a decision that effectively meant removing street vendors from their trading places.
Mr Lungu has not shied away from enforcing decisions that many pundits would view as political suicide. Street vendors are generally regarded as forming a big part of the Patriotic Front’s voting base in Lusaka.
It was therefore no small effort that the President took a decision that would in effect disadvantage his own base. Yet this is a decision that he could not shy away from because of the magnitude of the problem that the country is facing.
The outbreak of cholera sometime in October last year could have passed without much ado if the issue had been handled then. But alas, the onset of rains coupled with a very dirty capital city, provided a recipe for disaster.
Cholera, which is largely spread by contact and or through water or eating contaminated food, quickly spread aided by the filth that had taken over most compounds and some trading places within the city.
It is was no wonder therefore that the President had to make a decision though perceived politically incorrect, may end up saving lives.
This decision was affirmed yesterday when President Lungu toured the newly converted cholera treatment centre, the Heroes Stadium for an on-the-spot check of the facilities and also to find out from the patients how they were faring.
President Lungu affirmed that he would rather be unpopular and save lives than be popular with a dying population.
“I would rather lose popularity than remain popular with a dying population. I choose to save lives rather than remain in power and popular, life to me is very important, I repeat very cardinal than anything.
“My rise to power is purely by God’s grace and by these same people on the street whom I am here to save,” he said.
It is indeed by the grace of God that the government has managed to bring the cholera situation under control by implementing interventions with stakeholders intended to eliminate the spread of the disease.
Like everyone, we also hopeful that the situation gets back to normal sooner than later.
It is not only the street vendors who have been adversely affected by the interventions, which are a necessity, but many other businesses and individual households.
Many business are bound to make losses as a result of the closure of the CBD and other markets. Schools will have to find ways of making up for lost time following the extended holidays as a result of the cholera outbreak.
It is therefore gratifying to learn that government is on top of the situation and managing to control cholera’s further spread.
We are also mindful that the effectiveness of any government policy depends on a receptive population, which in this case has been the case. Zambians from all walks of life have heeded government warning about maintaining high standards of hygiene in work places and residential areas.
In fact, one positive aspect that is evident from reports across the country is that there is a unity of purpose.
Even in areas where there has not been any reported cases of cholera, the local leadership and communities have come on board and are cleaning up their surroundings.
The catchword throughout the nation now is cleanliness. People have realised, much to their detriment, that they had taken cleanliness for granted.
Communities in residential areas have come on board and willingly joined in the cleaning exercise. This is in stark contrast to their attitude when the President directed the defence forces to come and clean up Lusaka for example.
We just hope that this spirit will continue. The onus is on each one of us as individuals to be responsible for the cleanliness of our surroundings. People should not think the soldiers will always be there to do so.
They had to leave their barracks this time round because it was a national crisis and which better body to call on than the soldiers. That is what obtains throughout the world.
Soldiers are not just there to fight wars but help out in peacetime duties as well when there is a crisis.
Let this spirit of oneness that cholera has brought out continue and a few months from now, we’ll all be laughing over it.