Seventy-First Session of the World Health Assembly
Palais des Nations, Geneva, 21 to 26 May 2018
MINISTERIAL STATEMENT ON THE PROPOSED RESOLUTION TO END CHOLERA GLOBALLY
Allow me to begin by thanking the Chairperson for this opportunity to make a statement for Zambia regarding the proposed resolution to end cholera globally.
I also wish to pay tribute to the Global Taskforce on Cholera Control (GTFCC) and Secretariat who have worked tirelessly to support affected countries and coordinate response strategies at global level.
Chairperson, it is now two centuries since cholera was recognized as a disease of devastating epidemic potential. Sadly the disease still remains a global threat to humanity, affecting more than 51 countries worldwide, with an estimated 2.9 million cases and 95,000 deaths occurring every year due to the disease. The most affected are developing countries, where access to clean safe water and sanitation remain a serious challenge.
Zambia recorded its first cholera outbreak in 1977 and has since recorded 29 outbreaks. The country has just come out of its latest outbreak, which affected 5,919 individuals with a case fatality rate of 1.93%. The response to this outbreak has however been unprecedented, owing to high level political will, local resource mobilisation and deployment, and a well-coordinated multisectoral response.
The Zambian Republican President His Excellency Mr. Edgar Chagwa Lungu appointed a committee of Cabinet Ministers, which I as Minister of Health chaired, to oversee and mobilise resources for the response. Furthermore, at technical level a multisectoral team led by the Zambia National Public Health Institute (ZNPHI) provided technical oversight to the response using the Incident Management System (IMS) strategy.
Chairperson, my Government affirms the vision and aspiration of a country and world in which cholera no longer presents a threat to public health. We fully subscribe to the global cholera control strategy launched by the Global Task Force on Cholera Control (GTFCC) – ‘Ending Cholera: A Roadmap to 2030’. This strategy implores affected countries, technical partners, and donors to reduce cholera deaths by 90 percent and eliminate cholera transmission in at least 20 countries by 2030. In line with this, the Government of Zambia has taken a bold step by setting a legacy goal: “to eliminate cholera in Zambia by 2025”.
It has long been common knowledge from research and lessons learnt in different cholera outbreak situations that poor access to water and sanitation services are major drivers of cholera and other waterborne diseases. Sadly, in this era when all of us here subscribe to Universal Health Coverage (UHC), many countries are still grappling with this deadly yet preventable disease. In embracing the principle of UHC, we have resolved to transform our healthcare management to ensure we promote equity, basic rights, and health security that can lead to significant economic gains.
There is need to ensure populations have access to appropriate healthcare, early case management, access to safe water, sanitation, education, health literacy and improved hygiene behaviours (WASH).
The use of oral cholera vaccines, strengthened surveillance, information sharing, improved laboratory capacity, community involvement, and action on social determinants of health are critical elements in driving the elimination of cholera.
All these interventions require commitment and dedicated financial, material, infrastructure and human resources. Notably, colossal sums of money have been spent on a reactive approach to outbreaks and yet these resources could have been used more equitably and effectively to resolve drivers of cholera and other waterborne diseases through preparedness and preventive activities, infrastructure development and better primary health care service delivery.
Chairperson, the Government of the Republic of Zambia acknowledges and agrees with the perspective that the way forward to resolving and ending cholera requires a coordinated and multisectoral approach.
My Government affirms that now is the time for the world to act and accelerate action against cholera at country, regional and global levels. I wish to make a clarion call and appeal to all member states to support the Resolution to end cholera globally, which Zambia is sponsoring together with the Haitian Government.
I thank you.