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Namibia: Country Bans Zambian Food Imports Over Cholera Outbreak

Katima Mulilo — The Namibian government has resolved to provisionally ban the importation of all perishable food, fruits, unprocessed food and water from neighbouring Zambia - where there is a cholera outbreak that has claimed 66 lives - until further notice.

Those dead are mostly slum dwellers in Zambia, New Era understands.

The ban came into effect on Monday this week - January 8 - and is necessitated by attempts to help contain the current wave of the cholera epidemic in Zambia, where it first surfaced in September last year.

Recently, one case was reported in Livingstone, Zambia, about 200km from that country's border with Namibia. This case seems to have played a part in the government banning the import of food from the neighbouring country.

Many Namibians in the eastern Zambezi Region buy - and in some cases smuggle - maize flour and fruits such as mangoes from Zambia.

Health officers from the Namibian ministry of health held an emergency meeting at the Wenela border post yesterday to inform border officials that no food items should be allowed into Namibia from Zambia.

Speaking to New Era, health officer Lempie Onesmus said health officials are on alert and have taken precautionary measures, including screening people entering Namibia from Zambia.

"When a person arrives, the health officer uses an infrared thermometer to check the body temperature [of that visitor]. If the body temperature is too high, maybe 37 degrees, the device will ring as it has a programmed alarm. It also depends on what symptoms the person has. For instance, if that person has cholera, they will be vomiting and having diarrhoea," she explained.

Onesmus however stressed that the public should not be too alarmed as the stoppage of food imports is only a provisional measure until such time the situation in Zambia returns to normal.

She added that apart from the one case reported in Livingstone, no other case has been reported in areas close to Namibia.

Meanwhile, the media in Zambia reported on Monday that cases of cholera have continued to rise in the capital Lusaka, and currently the number stands at about 2,600, while 66 people have died so far.

The Zambian government has decided to invoke statutory instrument number 79 to ban all public gatherings in affected places - such as church services, funeral gatherings and gatherings to drink at bars, among others, in order to ensure that there are no further transmissions through contact.

Analysts say Zambia should quickly put in place measures to contain cholera as the prolonged outbreak may have a negative impact on the economy and tourism of the copper-exporting nation.

Zambian Food Import Ban Claims First Victims in Namibia

Katima Mulilo — The cholera outbreak in Zambia and the food import ban implemented by Namibia with effect from Monday this week means Namibian fish traders will not be allowed to import boxes of frozen fish from the north-eastern neighbouring country.

Fresh fish traders in the Zambezi Region - whose livelihoods depend on importing fish from a farmer who has several commercial fish ponds in Zambia - have been left in despair after the government's decision to ban the import of perishable and unprocessed food from that country.

The ban came effective on Monday, due to the cholera outbreak that has besieged Zambia for the past three months.

Fishmongers who spoke to New Era were despondent after learning they were no longer allowed to import fresh produce from that country.

The Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources is enforcing a moratorium that prohibits fishing in the Zambezi, Linyanti and other perennial rivers in that region to enable fish stocks to recover from overfishing that has decimated fish populations in water bodies such as Lake Liambezi.

Fish traders told New Era they had already ordered fish from the farmer in Zambia, and that they had also already paid the farmer on Friday, only to be told yesterday that they can no longer bring the fish inside the county because there is a ban on all food imports from Zambia because of the deadly outbreak.

They were also worried that the farmer was not going to refund them their money because the fish had already been packed in containers and was ready for transport to Namibia.

"I am very disturbed right now. I feel like dying and being taken to the cemetery. Because that money I paid to the white man is the same money I was supposed to use to pay for my child at school," said one of the fishmongers, Erica Lyamupu.

"Health inspectors in Zambia always inspect them (fish) before we buy, even our health officials here always inspect them, they are healthy. They are not like tomatoes and vegetables, which are in an open place. We transport them in sealed containers, not just openly or in sacks, which means they are protected," lamented another frustrated fishmonger, Vivian Munguli.

The health officer at the Wenela border post, Lempie Onesmus, pleaded with the fishmongers to accept the situation, saying these efforts by the government are for their own wellbeing. She promised to give them letters to take to the farmer explaining that food can no longer enter Namibia.