© Laurence Hoenig/MSF


In 2016, we conducted the largest oral cholera vaccination campaign to be undertaken during an epidemic

Zambia has one of the world's fastest growing populations with the UN projecting that its population of 13 million will triple by 2050.

Unlike it's Angolan, Congolese and Zimbabwean neighbours, Zambia has managed to avoid war and upheaval in its post-colonial years, earning itself a reputation for political stability.

The landlocked country has experienced rapid economic growth over the last decade as Africa's second largest copper producer, after the Democratic Republic of Congo. However, its over-reliance on copper has made Zambia vulnerable to falling commodity prices.

Economic growth and major investments in the country have failed to improve the lives of most Zambians, with two-thirds still living in poverty.

Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) first worked in Zambia in 1999, before handing over medical activities to the Zambian Ministry of Health (MoH) in 2013. However, we returned in 2016 in response to a cholera epidemic.

Working together with the MoH and the World Health Organisation (WHO), we conducted a large-scale vaccination campaign during the outbreak.

Although cholera is a major public health issue in Zambia, with outbreaks typically occurring during the rainy season, the epidemic in February 2016 was the first to hit the capital city, Lusaka, since 2011.

Around 1.2 million people live in overcrowded informal settlements in the city, and with such a long period between outbreaks, very few had acquired immunity to the disease at the time of the 2016 emergency.

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