January 10, 2018 / 12:54 PM / 5 months ago

Zambia closes main passport offices to curb cholera spread

LUSAKA, Jan 10 (Reuters) - Zambia has closed its main passport offices in the capital, a hub which is always thronged with people, as part of measures to curb the spread of cholera which is sweeping the country, the government said.

Street vending and public gatherings have also been banned in Lusaka to counter the disease, which has killed 67 people since September, 62 of them in the capital alone.

Home Affairs minister Stephen Kampyongo said the Passports and Citizenship Office in Lusaka would remain closed until further notice.

“In the meantime officers will only attend to travel emergencies. This is to allow for measures to be put in place to avoid the spread of cholera,” Kampyongo said.

On Sunday, Zambia declared a curfew in a poor Lusaka township badly affected by a cholera outbreak to avoid crowding and street vending at night.

The curfew in Kanyama, a densely populated slum of iron-roofed shacks and dirt tracks runs from between 1800 hrs and 0600 hrs.

Zambia on Wednesday started vaccinations against cholera targeting 2 million people as the total number of those who have fallen sick since the disease broke out peaked at 2,905.

The cholera outbreak was initially ascribed to contaminated water from shallow wells, but investigations suggest that contaminated food may also be to blame.

President Edgar Lungu on Dec. 30 directed the military to help to fight the spread of the waterborne disease.

Cholera causes acute watery diarrhea. It can be treated with oral hydration solutions and antibiotics but spreads rapidly and can kill within hours if not treated. (Reporting by Chris Mfula; Editing by Richard Balmforth)

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