By Augustin Phiri
GROUNDS are vibrating at Embassy Park near the cenotaph in Lusaka as our beloved departed leaders who lie there calmly are suddenly turning in their Mausoleums and chattering about sanitation in view of the cholera epidemic currently ravaging Zambia.
“When I declared Zambia as a Christian nation soon after we attained our new political dispensation,” starts Bashi Castro, “I repeatedly reminded our people that cleanliness is next to Godliness.”
“This is why I launched the Keep-Zambia-Clean Campaign,” he adds.
“Eee, eee, eee,” chips in Bashi Levy. “I totally concur with you Fred. This is why I ordered this girl in Chongwe, what’s her name again?”
“Masebo, Sylvia Masebo,” pops in Bashi Chilufya.
“Yes, Sylvia Masebo. I sent this girl to re-launch the Keep-Zambia-Clean Campaign in order to give it a new impetus,” says the Great Wall as Bashi Levy is still fondly referred to as the Chibumba.
“What about you Mike?” asks Bashi Castro. “What is your contribution to this discussion?”
“You see bane, I was misunderstood when I said ‘kamata namayo uli pabukulu nga asaka amate mu street’.”
In Swahili, the word “Kamata” means arrest, apprehend, catch or nab.
“When I was Governor for Lusaka muli ba KK, I tried to introduce by-laws aimed at making the city clean and habitable to human beings,” explains Bashi Chilufya.
“And when I was Minister of Health in the Second Republic I revived these plans with a view to punishing people found throwing litter anyhow including arresting pregnant women found spitting saliva in the street,” he propounds.
“Yes, I remember that,” says Bashi Levy nodding his head as Bashi Castro did likewise.
Indeed, May their Souls Rest in Eternal Peace, this scenario might be satirical. But it clearly illustrates the efforts made by our leaders – both gone and living – to keep our surroundings neat to prevent public diseases such as the one we are now grappling with from breaking out.
Alas, as Agogo Kaunda keeps on saying it is “this animal in man” which keeps on winning over numerous public health programmes.
Most Zambians just do not care; they throw litter anywhere as they wish without realising that doing so goes to aiding the breeding of cholera.
Some Zambians even have the audacity of carrying this wicked mind to foreign countries they visit and end up attracting punishment for themselves.
For instance, a story is told of a Christian nun travelling on a bus from Lusaka to Johannesburg in South Africa who courted trouble at a stop over in Francistown in Botswana.
The bus had stopped over for a short rest and the nun bought a packet of chocolate which she wrapped and threw the paper on the ground.
In no time at all, the alert Botswana uniformed police officers around pounced and forced our nun to sweep and mop the concrete floor of the cafeteria. In the process, the Zambian sister delayed the bus from taking off to the chagrin of the other passengers.
In another incident, Zambians returning on a bus from down south are said to have burst into ululations, singing and whistling upon crossing the frontier into Zambia at Chirundu border post.The frenzy was not about their safe arrival back to mother Zambia, but was about the return to freedom of tossing fruit peels, used mineral water bottles and paper through the windows of the vehicle while in motion.
While these incidents are hard to pinpoint, they too illustrate the odd mindset of Zambians which cannot be tolerated in Zimbabwe, South Africa and Botswana as already alluded to.
Those who have had the privilege of travelling to these and other foreign countries may attest that it is rare to see pieces of paper lying on roads and shop corridors there unlike in Zambia.
Our roads are littered with all sorts of objects thrown at will by the uncaring road users. Incidentally, where have the litter plastic buckets which were once common sights in buses and mini-buses gone to?
For, like first aid boxes, road traffic police officers looked for buckets at check points like they did with first aid boxes.
That aside, at the time of writing, some 52 people had succumbed to cholera with 2, 802 others being placed under treatment in various cholera centres mostly in Lusaka where the pandemic is more severe.
A bacterial disease, cholera usually spreads through drinking contaminated water and food and causes severe diarrhoea and dehydration to the sufferers. If left untreated, cholera can be fatal in a matter of hours, even in previously healthy people.
However, to some people, the cholera pandemic comes as a blessing.
The decision by Government to delay the reopening of schools sheds off pressure to find money for fees, buying uniforms and purchase other school requisites for children and dependants.
For, the festive season had a toll in home finances but the time is ticking and the pressure is slowly returning.
Others are feeling the wrath of the soldiers deployed on the business district of Lusaka to keep peace, sorry to clear piles of uncollected garbage. A well dressed young woman was forced by the irate soldiers to join in dirt work in full view of onlookers.
The incident happened in Freedom Way and the men in uniform but in work suits were clearing dirt when they saw a lady standing near Invest Bank taking a video of them on her mobile phone.
Unimpressed, they grabbed the phone from her, handed her a shovel and ordered her to clear the mud from a shallow drainage after deleting from her phone images she had captured. Instead, they took images of her doing the work as punishment for being “naughty.”
How can she take a video of the men at work without their permission?
In yet another incident, a man and his wife infected with cholera bolted from a cholera centre but were “arrested” and re-admitted to the same medical facility.
Some Pastors too are said to be counting losses in uncollected offerings arising from suspended church gatherings including church services; stranger than fiction?
Such complaining men and women of God ought to know better that a Shepherd once skipped a church service to hoist his sheep which had slipped into a pit, so says the Holy Bible. In our case, we are talking about saving not one sheep but multitudes of people from perishing from the cholera scourge.
According to medical records, the first cholera pandemic occurred in the Bengal region of India, near Calcutta starting in 1817 through 1824.
The disease spread from India to Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Europe, and Eastern Africa through trade routes.
The second pandemic lasted from 1827 to 1835 and particularly affected North American and Europe due to the result of advancements in transportation and global trade, and increased human migration, including soldiers.
The third pandemic erupted in 1839, persisted until 1856, extended to North Africa, and reached South America, for the first time specifically affecting Brazil. The fourth pandemic lasted from 1863 to 1875 spread from India to Naples and Spain.
The fifth pandemic was from 1881–1896 and is said to have started in India and spread to Europe, Asia, and South America with the sixth pandemic occurring between 1899 and1923. These epidemics were less fatal due to a greater understanding of the cholera bacteria.
Egypt, the Arabian Peninsula, Persia, India, and the Philippines were hit hardest during these epidemics, while other areas, like Germany in 1892 and Naples from 1910–1911, also experienced severe outbreaks.
The final pandemic originated in 1961 in Indonesia and is marked by the emergence of a new strain, nicknamed El Tor, which still persists today in developing countries, says medical history reports.
Since it became widespread in the 19th century, cholera has killed tens of millions of people. In Russia alone, between 1847 and 1851, more than one million people perished of the disease. It killed 150,000 Americans during the second pandemic.
Between 1900 and 1920, some eight million people died of cholera in India. Cholera became the first reportable disease in the United States due to the significant effects it had on health.
And a notable victim of cholera is James Knox Polk, the 11th President of the United States of America who died on June 15, 1849 after occupying the high office on March 4, 1845.
Polk was previously Speaker of the House of Representatives (1835–1839) and Governor of Tennessee (1839–1841). The other is Sir Elliot Bovill, Chief Justice of the Straits Settlements of Singapore who died in 1893. He had taken up the post only the previous year in 1892.
In recent years, the disease has broken out in Zimbabwe (2008), Haiti in the aftermath of the debilitating earthquake (2010), Yemen, the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Africa among others.
In 2001 alone, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and its partners in the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network verified 41 cholera outbreaks in 28 countries.
Cholera is an infectious disease of a bacterium called Vibrio cholera which thrives mostly in places with poor sanitation, crowding, war and famine.
Zambians can do well to heed instructions being given out by medical practitioners to boil water meant for drinking and warming and heating food before eating it even though ice cream lickers and cheese chewers may find this unattainable.
Let us do something and let God save us from the menacing cholera.