Zambia has delayed the start of its school year by three weeks, echoing measures taken in January 2018, as cholera deaths in the southern African nation climb.
School reopenings have been suspended until at least 29 January as part of measures to contain the outbreak that has infected 3 757 people and killed 128 countrywide since October.
The highest daily rate was reported on Wednesday (3 January), with 16 deaths.
Cholera outbreaks have affected 16 African countries over the last two years as severe storms and wars have accelerated the spread of illnesses.
The bacterial disease, which causes severe dehydration from vomiting and diarrhea, can kill within hours if left untreated.
While curbs on shops, markets and other institutions haven’t yet been implemented and the government “is concerned about the negative impact pandemics have had on the education sector in the past, safeguarding the lives of school communities remains a priority,” Education Minister Douglas Syakalima told reporters in Lusaka, the capital, on Thursday.
South Africa’s health department has intensified screening services and education on the disease at land ports of entry after the World Health Organisation late last year called for heightened surveillance to prevent and mitigate cross-border transmission.
The department urged “all travelers returning from cholera-endemic areas, including Zimbabwe, to be vigilant of cholera symptoms and cooperate with health officials, and be transparent”.
All suspected cholera patients “will be referred to the nearest health facilities for testing,” it said in a statement earlier this week.