Although many in the developed world assume cholera is no longer a threat, the disease still ravages Africa. When an outbreak occurred in Zambia, a Sheba response team answered the country’s urgent call for help.

Cholera Outbreak in Zambia

In January 2018, over 100 people died, and thousands were infected during a Cholera outbreak in Lusaka, Zambia’s capital. 

Following a request from the Zambian government, a multidisciplinary mission of doctors, nurses, and lab technicians from Sheba’s Humanitarian and Disaster Response Center (HDRC), led by Prof. Elhanan Bar-Or, HDRC Director, and Prof. Eli Schwartz, Director of Sheba’s Tropical Disease Unit, was the first international response team to answer the urgent call for help. 

Meeting with local authorities to identify the most efficient means of assisting, the team familiarized itself with local customs as well as medical and emergency protocols.

After assessing the situation, Sheba’s team advised the Zambian Ministry of Health on establishing a field hospital, and later joined local medical teams: working shoulder to shoulder in diagnosing and treating patients. 

During their time in Zambia, the team treated over 100 patients each day. As there was no functional laboratory in the field hospital, Sheba flew one in and installed it, training the local staff to operate the equipment in preparation for the team’s eventual departure.

“We brought modern laboratory equipment and enough medications and fluids to treat the current outbreak, where 2 out of every 100 people were dying,” explained Prof. Schwartz. “Cholera can easily be treated with fluids and antibiotics, but it’s up to the government of Zambia to upgrade its drainage and sewage systems.”

Summing up the mission, Prof. Yitzhak Kreiss, Director General of Sheba Medical Center, explained: “In accordance with Sheba’s mission to save lives and make a positive global impact, the expertise and experience of the HDRC team were committed to helping the people of Zambia and protecting them from the tragic cholera outbreak. We are proud to provide a helping hand for those in need worldwide. ” 

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