Zambia withdraws military personnel deployed to fight cholera

FILE PHOTO: Zambian President Edgar Lungu at a meeting in Durban, South Africa May 4, 2017. REUTERS/Rogan Ward/File Photo

LUSAKA (Reuters) - Zambia has withdrawn military personnel deployed in December to help clean up the capital and other cities at the height of a cholera outbreak that has killed more than 80 people in seven months, the government said on Wednesday.

President Edgar Lungu directed the military to help fight the spread of cholera under emergency measures to contain the waterborne disease, including the closure of markets.

Home Affairs Minister Stephen Kampyongo told a briefing on Wednesday that the joint operations of the defense and security personnel had helped restore order and Lungu had ordered them to return to barracks at midnight on Tuesday.

“They accomplished their mission. The commander-in-chief has since directed the defense forces to return to their regular duties,” Kampyongo said, referring to Lungu.

Police will continue with patrols to ensure that vendors did not return to the streets, he said.

Zambia in January relaxed rules imposed to curb the spread of cholera, allowing schools and markets to reopen as the number of new cases being reported had halved.

Cholera is spread by ingesting faecal matter and causes acute watery diarrhea. It can be treated with oral rehydration solution but the disease spreads rapidly and can kill within hours if not treated.

Reporting by Chris Mfula; Editing by Mark Heinrich