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Zambia Confronts Floods and Cholera - 2003-12-29

Heavy rains have brought flooding to the Zambian Capital, Lusaka. Lightning has killed one person while the rains have destroyed several houses. The Zambia Red Cross has visited affected areas to assess the damage. Reporter Kellys Kaunda has that story from Lusaka.

The Red Cross Society of Zambia says about 50 houses have been damaged or destroyed by the floods. Charles Mushitu is the Red Cross Public Relations Manager.

He says, "It’s really a disaster because people have lost a lot of resources in terms of building material and household items."

The heavy rains that have been falling lately have hit several townships in the capital Lusaka hard. The townships - which are mostly poor and heavily populated - include Misis, Kanyama and John Laing.

The victim of the lightning strike died while attending a church service over the weekend. The man - identified as Blacksmith Phiri- was in his fifties. The incident happened in the Seventh-Day Adventist Church in the Chaisa township of Capital Lusaka.

Mr. Mushitu says the Red Cross is erecting tents to provide shelter to those whose houses have collapsed. The Red Cross official says the victims of the heavy rains will need food, medicine, clothing and blankets.

A team of government officials today conducted a tour of affected areas to determine what assistance is needed.

The team is expected to work in collaboration with the Disaster Management Unit established by government a few years ago to deal with emergencies.

Experts and government officials attribute the destruction to the poor condition of the houses and the materials used in the construction. In addition, they say the affected areas have poor drainage systems.

Zambia has in the past experienced similar disasters. This has led to confidence among observers that the victims may get help sooner rather than later.

As for the cholera outbreak...Zambia has recorded more than four hundred cases of cholera since last month. Ten people have died from the disease, which has been confined to capital, Lusaka.

TEXT: Central Board of Health spokesman Victor Mukonka says currently there’re 80 patients in the few centres that have been set up to look after the victims of Cholera.

Dr. Mukonka says the most affected areas are two heavily populated and poor townships – Chawama and Kanyama.

He attributes the outbreak of cholera to heavy rains that have contaminated water in shallow wells. However, Dr. Mukonka says the situation is under control.

"From our side, I think we’re running the cholera centres very effectively. We have had very few deaths. We’re responding very quickly. Once a person reaches the centre, we ensure he’s resuscitated and back to life."

In the early nineties, cholera broke out and claimed scores of lives. In some cases, half of those admitted ended up dying.

But recent years have recorded a decline in the cases and in fatalities. Since cholera broke out on the twenty eighth of last month only ten have died out of 412 cases.

Cholera is a water bone disease caused by a germ called vibrio. It causes vomiting and diarrhea, which lead to dehydration.

If not treated quickly, the victim may die within hours of infection. Treatment is normally in form of fluids intended to replace those lost due to vomiting.

Health authorities recommend clean surroundings, boiled water for drinking or water treated with chlorine.