Zambia Field Epidemiology Training Program bolsters fight against deadly cholera outbreak

Dr Deborah Tembo – FETP graduate and supporting the Public Health Emergency Operation Center (EOC), standing next to a cholera treatment center a Chilanga Urban Clinc, Chilanga on 1 February 2024
Advanced FETP Coordinator Dr. Banda Dabwitso (right) and Prof. Nathan Kapata (bending) – Director of Emergency Preparedness and Response receiving Cholera vaccines at Heroes National Stadium Cholera Treatment Center (CTC)

Amidst the ongoing cholera outbreak in the country, the Zambia Field Epidemiology Training Program (FELTP) has emerged as a crucial force driving the response efforts. With a comprehensive strategy encompassing contact tracing, well chlorination, water quality monitoring, mortality audits, geospatial mapping, and overall response coordination, FELTP is at the forefront of managing the crisis.

As Zambia enters its 15th week of the response, the toll stands at 16,526 cases and 613 deaths, largely affecting males (57% male cases, 60% male deaths) nationwide. The FELTP plays a pivotal role in compiling and managing this data at the Public Health Emergency Operation Center (EOC).

Dr. Banda Dabwitso, the Advanced FETP Coordinator, highlights the significant progress in community vaccination. Out of the targeted hotspot population of 1,888,112, a remarkable 98.5%—1,859,846 individuals—have received the vaccine.

In a February 1 field visit, public health workers Marriane Mulenga and Deborah Tembo (both FETP Frontline graduates) conducted water quality monitoring at Makulu Health Facility and Chilanga Urban Clinic in Chilanga District. The visit involved testing available water sources and reviewing data on reported cases and deaths.

Ms. Pauline Mwale, in charge of the Cholera Treatment Unit, explained that Oral Rehydration Points (ORP) had been set up to act as first aid stations for cases before reaching the facility. Community-based Volunteer Anastasia Muyumba noted that stigma is a barrier to receiving services at her station called Linda ORP.

FETP residents and graduates have been actively involved in regular visits to these facilities, ensuring that proper measures are in place for active case search and surveillance. In the field, they encounter challenges such as stigma and observe contamination sources, including pit latrines polluting water sources and inadequate water storage and boiling practices.

The relentless efforts of FELTP underscore its commitment to tackling the cholera outbreak comprehensively. With a multifaceted approach and dedication to community engagement, FELTP remains a strong pillar in Zambia’s fight against cholera.

The battle against cholera continues, with FELTP leading the charge to bring about a healthier, safer Zambia.

FETP Frontline graduates Ms Marriane Mulenga (left) and Ms Deborah Tembo (bending), with Ms. Pauline Mwale at Makulu Health Facility’s ORP units at Linda. Next to them are Community Based Volunteers
A health worker going into the CTC at Chilanga Urban Clinic on 1 February 2024
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