United front needed to combat cholera outbreak in Southern Africa

Niël Terblanché

In urgent response to the escalating cholera outbreak across Southern Africa, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) held an extraordinary virtual council meeting.

Health ministers from member states, including Angola’s Foreign Minister, Ambassador Tete Antonio, convened to discuss a coordinated regional approach to combat the spread of the disease.

Ambassador Antonio emphasized the urgent need for collective action among SADC countries.

The recent outbreak, affecting Botswana, South Africa, Mozambique, Zambia, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), has been identified as a significant barrier to the SADC’s integration and development goals.

Antonio highlighted the interconnected nature of the SADC region, where the free movement of people, goods, and services across borders has inadvertently facilitated the rapid spread of cholera.

This situation has strained the health and financial resources of the affected countries, diverting crucial funds from other development sectors.

The cholera outbreak is clear evidence of the challenges presented by diseases that do not respect borders, necessitating a region-wide response.

Ambassador Antonio called for a comprehensive, coordinated approach, informed by health experts, to prevent and control the spread of cholera.

SADC’s history of resilience and collective determination, as seen in its handling of health challenges like HIV/AIDS and COVID-19, was cited as a foundation for optimism.

Regional efforts have previously led to significant progress in managing large-scale outbreaks.

Angola and Namibia, while not yet reporting cholera cases, have heightened alert levels due to the proximity of outbreaks in Zambia and the DRC.

With hundreds of deaths reported in the region, the need for swift and unified action is more pressing than ever.

Ambassador Antonio stressed that no single country could tackle cholera alone. The ministers urged for investment in the region’s health infrastructure to build healthier communities, foster human potential, and reallocate resources towards sustainable development.

Namibia’s Minister of Health and Social Services, Dr. Kalumbi Shangula, joined his counterparts from 11 member states in this crucial meeting.

The discussions also focused on the state of preparedness, response strategies, and measures to mitigate the cholera crisis.

This collective endeavour aims to curb the cholera spread and fortify the region against future pandemics, aligning with the SADC’s vision of a united, resilient community.

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