The Big Business of Cholera

Cholera has devastated Zambia at the current moment and one wonders why year in and year out we have to face this menace. From experience, I have seen that we do not do enough to prevent its occurrence and the reasons may not be that straightforward and apparent to many.

In my time as the National Health Programme Coordinator at the Zambia Red Cross around the mid 2000s, I represented the organisation on the National Epidemic Preparedness, Prevention, Control and Management committee of the Ministry of Health. One of the ongoing cries of the Red Cross and many donors at the time was that we needed to focus more on prevention rather than waiting for outbreaks of cholera to occur and for this reason a national cholera contingency plan was proposed by many government partners.

However, at the time there was never any traction from government to come up with such a plan, much to the frustration of many of the partners. As Red Cross, we thus set out to develop a “Zambia Red Cross Cholera Contingency Plan” that would have allowed us to raise funds for cholera prevention activities from our donors, who had expressed interest in funding such a plan. It would also have enabled us to meaningfully engage the various in-country partners and donors that were necessary to successfully pull off such a plan. We did not call it a national cholera contingency plan in order to avoid stepping on the governments toes and emphasised that our plan could be a small part of the national contingency plan once that was worked on.

I set out to write to various partners to call for a meeting to discuss such a plan. Rather naively, I was so focused on results and getting things done that I forgot about the very fragile ground of government and partner politics that is always at play in the health sector.

Shortly after the invitations were sent out, the Secretary General of Zambia Red Cross, Mr Charles Mushitu, called me to inform me that the Director of Public Health (I cannot remember if that was the exact title at the time with the ever-changing nomenclature at MOH), was rather displeased about our proposed meeting and wanted to see me immediately.

For obvious reasons I will not state his name but I recall it was a very brief and rather hostile meeting. I was asked what year I graduated and what my credentials were and what gave me the right to call such a meeting. I was told in no uncertain terms that that was his role and I had no right to do so. My confidence was not faded and I explained the intention of the plan, stating that it was a small  Red Cross plan and not a national one and that it would be far cheaper to prevent the disease than to wait for an outbreak and tackle it then.
Needless to say, MOH discouraged all partners from attending our meeting and it never happened. Such an idea upset too many norms and it appeared even the partners were weary of upsetting MOH by being part of such an effort. So political expediency won at the end of the day, despite the overwhelming need for such a plan.

But I learnt some lessons from that, one of which is that cholera is “big business” and, at least at that time, was a big factor in not having the political will to prevent it. Outbreaks bring money. Big money. Emergency money. Money that does not need to be accounted for so strictly. During such emergencies financial rules are relaxed in order to tackle the situation quickly and, so is the intention at least, effectively. So why stop an outbreak that benefits some who may be involved in tackling it? It is all too easy and tempting during such times to take a few dollars or kwacha here and there for personal gain. Of-course there are the additional legal ways money is made, such as more allowances for personnel and so on.  Even some donors at such times utilise such emergencies to lobby for more funding for the response that also beefs up their organisation’s coffers and assists in meeting other costs generally.  I would hope that is not the situation we still find ourselves in.

Preventing cholera, from a public health perspective is simple: promote hygiene, clean up the environment, disinfect known highly vulnerable areas, provide safe water and better sanitation facilities and so on. I oversimplify as the logistics of this could be quite daunting, but in essence that is what it is.

The current things that are being done now by the army and other players are commendable but what stops us from doing such things before outbreaks occur? Complacency on the part of key players such as the council to keep the city clean has to be considered. An overstretched health system, political pressure to please and appease street vendors and so on also contribute. Though one has to be careful about blaming cholera on street vendors as the evidence for this is rather weak, though one cannot argue against cleanliness generally.

But largely, we suffer from a lack of any long term plan to tackle the problem. Every year we have an outbreak, run around like headless chickens and when the outbreak ends we go back to business as usual. We wait for the next outbreak.

No one seems to ask; how do we continue with the efforts we have made now to prevent the next possible outbreak? It will be a shame, but am sure it will happen, to let the city of Lusaka go back to the filth and crowded streets we had before the current clean up. Instead we should be looking to keep it this way. Why can’t food outlets be tested all the time and not just during outbreaks? Why can’t people be encouraged to practice good hygiene all the time? It is all possible and can be sustained. That is the only way to end cholera outbreaks.

So, a simple matter such as cholera turns out to be a little more complex, thanks to a little greed, politics, complacency, inadequacy of infrastructure and other factors.

How long will we wait before we demand “no cholera” rather than “stopping the spread of cholera”? I would like to see this be a campaign matter, I would like to see donors add more pressure on the government to prevent it.

But mostly power lies within us the people, every one of us, to demand decency and what is right:   a clean and cholera free country is our right! We should hold those responsible accountable to deliver on this.

Fitness Resolution Fails & Six Ways To Avoid Them

It’s nearly the end of the year and no doubt most people are evaluating what they did this year and what they would like to change next year. “New year resolutions” will be in full force in a couple of days. Unfortunately, they are also likely to be in full force FOR a couple of days before they fizzle away in the realities of life and most people simply get back to their comfort zone.

This applies to fitness and health resolutions too. I was chatting with a fellow gym goer around April this year and she complemented me on being consistent in going to the gym. She pointed out that the gym is normally very full in January and starts to dwindle in numbers by March or so. So, after the first quarter you only see the really committed people.

She also pointed out that most of the people that fall through, by her observations, are those whose employers pay for their gym membership. Those who pay for themselves tend to be more committed.

I agree with her on those two points. These are well known phenomena in gyms all over the world. Many people want change but few are willing to put in the time and effort required for that change.

They will go to the gym with zeal the first couple of days and sometimes even over exercise and push themselves for longer than necessary at each workout.  Then they fizzle away. Normally, such people want quick results. When they realise it will not be that quick to shed off ten or thirty years pf weight gain, or to put on that extra five kilos of muscle, they are discouraged.

In the past year I committed myself to fitness and healthy living. Towards my fortieth birthday I noticed I was getting a pot belly and also needed to pack on more muscle and look more bulked up generally. It has been an exciting and life-changing journey.

Here is what I learnt that can help you if you are planning on making some changes t your fitness and health

1. Be Clear About Your Goals

Your goals will not only inspire you but if you are clear about them they will help you in choosing the correct exercise programme and diet. Weight loss programmes differ from bulking up programmes and cardio programmes, for example. Your goals will also determine how often you need to get to gym on a weekly basis and so on. The faster the progress you want to make the more often you need to work out.

My first programme, “Lean Body with Lee Labrada” was twelve weeks long and required me to go to gym six days a week. It was great for losing fat, gaining some muscle and toning up. The tight schedule gave little time for slack and getting back into a comfort zone.

After that I went on to “Shortcut to size with Jim Stoppani” which was a four day a week programme focusing on building strength and muscle with less focus on fat loss. The four day schedule was surprisingly harder to stick to than a six day schedule because it gave too much opportunity to put it off for another day. So now I prefer programmes that are five or six days a week as they are easier to schedule.

So, you see that as you progress your goals may change too. Just be very clear on what you want at all times so you can stay focused.

2. Be Consistent

Consistency is a huge problem for many that fail to meet their fitness and health goals. They will hit the gym hard for a day or two and not show up for weeks or even months. Then they will go hard again. In the end no results to show for “months” of inconsistent effort and they give up.

The blame will usually go to the exercise programme, so they switch the programme and start another. That does not work so they start another one. Gym hopping is another hobby of such people. One gym after another, not making progress at any.

The problem is simply consistency. You need to commit to a routine and programme and stick with it. If it’s five days a week, ensure you do five days a week without excuse. If you choose a twelve-week programme see it through to the end. You may miss a week or two now and then but overall get it done.

Be consistent in your exercise but also in your diet. That above all else is what will make the real difference. That is why they say fitness is a lifestyle. It is about changing the way you live and your habits, not just about doing a little here and a little there.

As I have been on this journey a lot has changed about my lifestyle. I do not take sodas, I do not overeat, I stay well hydrated. I avoid anything with added sugar be it yoghurt or fruit juice and so on. I buy healthier food like brown rice and brown spaghetti, I avoid too much sun exposure…lifestyle changes.

If you do not make fitness and health a lifestyle choice and integrate it fully into your routine and way of living it is unlikely to stick with you in the long run and your results will be less dramatic.

3. Check Your Diet

18768238_1983561578533133_6779951544978612809_oI have seen people that work very hard at the gym and sabotage their progress by not eating right. Gym and eating go hand in hand. If one side of this equation is not right progress will be slow or none at all.

Most people tend to over-eat or simply not eat right in terms of getting the protein, carbs, veg mix right. Too much carbs are often the killer, especially in African culture where our diets are rich in carbs and less in protein.

On the other hand, if you are looking to bulk up with muscle you actually need to eat more than usual to have the extra energy and nutrients needed to do this.

For weight loss the goal is to have a diet deficient in calories so that you use more energy than you take in. For building muscle, the goals are to have a calorie excess or eat more than you would normally so your muscles have fuel and nutrients to grow. Again, your goal is paramount to determining your diet too. Learn to eat the right proportions and the right frequency for your fitness goals.

4. Be Patient and Committed

Do not expect overnight change. You did not become big overnight. You did not become small overnight. Any change takes time and is a gradual process. You must be committed to the journey and to reaching your goal no matter how long it takes. If you are consistent, the progress along the way to your ultimate goal will be equally exciting and encouraging.

5. Monitor Your Progress

Checking your progress is very important as it can motivate you and show you where you need to improve. At a bare minimum, taking pictures is one good way to do this. Take pictures from different angles and in different poses on day zero and periodically after that, say in two-week intervals which are likely to show progress. Subtle changes often show in photos that you may not notice otherwise.

Checking your weight is a second way thought this has to be done with caution. If your goals are simply general weight loss then this can work. But if your goal is fat loss and putting on some muscle the scale may not be the best way to measure progress. With such programmes as you lose fat you are also putting on more muscle, so your weight may not change much or may even increase. That is why comparing with photos will help you assess progress better when coupled with weight measurements.

In my first twelve-week programme, for example, my weight did not change much at all, but my proportions changed as I put on muscle and lost fat, so I looked better. In fact, many seasoned fitness enthusiasts will tell you that weight is only half the story. Many people actually put on weight when they are bodybuilding but look better and their body has better proportions. The key is to put on muscle weight and not fat weight.

Be mindful of things that can affect your weight on a day to day basis such as water intake and water retention. Water retention is particularly common if you are taking supplements creatine. Generally, you may weight more before bed at night than in the morning when you wake up. So, check your weight at the same times.

6. Be Accountable to Someone

Share your fitness goals with someone who can push you and monitor your progress. Everyone needs some encouragement and the fear of disappointing others can be a strong motivator.

During my first programme I made it a point to post my work out on my social media daily. I would post “day 20 of 84”, “day 70 of 84” and so on. That way my friends and family knew where I was and would often check on me and encourage me. The thought of disappointing them all was a big motivator and kept me going, coupled with my own determination to make a change. That was my accountability measure. You need not be as dramatic, just ensure someone knows what you are up to and can keep track of you.


So, there you go. My gems from my first year of taking on the fitness lifestyle. I am sure there is more exciting things ahead in the coming year and if you are embarking on such a journey I wish you all the best. Whatever you do, do not let this be another year when you make new year resolutions and review at the end of the year and find you have made zero progress. Commit to the journey no matter what.

Life is not fair – make the most of it

Concept of rich and poor in person.Life is not fair. Those who cry for equality are simply naive about how the world works. There is inequality everywhere. The thing is that sometimes the inequality works to our advantage and at such times we do not complain. Sometimes it works to our disadvantage and at such times we are bound to complain.

Consider some things we take for granted that illustrate this truth: a CEO will get more money than the guy on the factory floor. Equality would say everyone contributes to the company’s bottom line so everyone should get the same rewards.

Not all players on a premier league soccer team get the same pay. Each one has their value, they are not equal. When getting on a plane business and first class passengers get priority  and they get better service overall with a better flight experience both on and off the flight.

In the cinema you can pay extra to have a premium experience, such as Prestige cinema. Banks have ordinary customers and they have various levels of premium customers whom they provide, or at least are supposed to, give better and more convenient service.

Your maid or gardener is not equal to you by a long shot. But that works out to your advantage because it means you can afford their services.

Economic inequality is everywhere

These examples illustrate one very important thing – economic inequality. It is everywhere in our daily lives. A lot of it you accept and a lot of it you do not actually think of as inequality. It just seems to be the way the world works and you go along with it.

Sometimes, once in a while, when you are on the wrong side of the equation you might get that deep sense of frustration or dissatisfaction. Sometimes you might get a sense that you too deserve better.

You deserve the good things in life

Yes. You do. Deserve better. We all do. We all deserve to be premium bankers, to be business class or first-class travellers, to be able to take a fun holiday at least once a year, to drive a luxury car, to be able to afford first class healthcare. We all deserve that.

The world is not going to change any time soon. Complaining will not change anything, inequality is only getting bigger around the world with the gap between rich and poor is growing.

The only question is, which side of this equation do you really want to be on and what can you do to get there? Clearly it takes more effort to be a “have” than to be a “have not”. But…might as well put in that effort.   Things are not likely to change on their own.

So get angry, get impatient, get working towards it. Direct that energy to getting on the other side of the scale. Once you are there, you inevitably pull others there too. Your family, your friends, your employees, your neighbourhood, your country. It starts somewhere and that is with you.

Commit to it

For me, that is one big way to fight the inequality – getting more people to be on the good side of the equation. Yes, there are other ways, influencing policy, changing laws and rules and so on. But nothing beats simply increasing and spreading the wealth around. That tends to bring about more change in the long run.

I subscribe to what someone said a while back: “Get rich, it is the best way you can help the poor.”

Granted the journey is not certain, victory is not guaranteed. But we can learn from those that are on the good side of the economy what they are doing or did right and apply the lessons ourselves. If someone else has done it, why should it not be possible for you? It is possible. It is doable.

I decided I am going to work hard and smart so that I am not the one envying the people in business class, the one crying “foul” when the queue in the bank is long and someone walks to front with premium membership. I decided I will be one of those people.

I am committed to learning how and to applying those lessons. I will be on the right side of this equation. You can decide too. Any day. Today.

The Ugly Truth & How To Keep It Real

Truth Torn PaperSometimes, no, a lot of times, the facts are right before you, but consciously or unconsciously you choose to ignore them. It may be that you tend to ignore information that does not fit with how you see or want to see things. Or it may be a matter of being over-optimistic, sometimes being too stubborn to accept contradictory information.

That used to be a great weakness of mine, being over-optimistic to the extent of simply ignoring information that did not fit with how I wanted things to be. Sometimes, even when I recognised such inconvenient truths I went ahead thinking that out of sheer will I could change things and make them work out.

Couple that with my misapplied “positive thinking” mentality at the time and you cn guess where things were headed. Often this took a lot of effort and sometimes things even seemed to work out. But the success was often short-lived as those inconvenient truths reared their ugly heads again, to my frustration.

So I would try again and again and again. I was never the type to give up. This inevitably took its tool over time. You can only hit your head so many times against a brick wall without getting injured. The injury did come.

Consequences of ignoring the truth can be harsh

Sometimes it was financial injury in the form of business losses or money wasted on something or someone. Sometimes it was emotional injury, disappointment, rejection, dejection, shame. Sometimes it was simply time wasted. Many times it was all of them.

My personality type did not help either. My type of personality, INTJ in Myers Briggs or strong on Dominance in DiSC personality types, is known to not think things through in great detail and act on hunches or intuition more. We are notorious for ignoring things that do not fit into our thinking and views.

Over time I have come to be very aware of this and thus learnt to compensate for it and be more careful in analysing things before I take a leap. I often take a step back before taking action, or when things are not working out I analyse a little more than I would like to so I do not miss anything. I accept information that is not convenient to my plans or that is uncomfortable more. The mistakes are fewer now.

Understand your weaknesses

That is the great thing about knowing your weaknesses, you learn how to overcome them or deal with them. I don’t agree at all with most motivational gurus and coaches that say you should simply focus on your strengths. It is important to also understand and handle your weaknesses, sometimes more than your strengths because they represent your blind-side. Your blind-side is what makes you you vulnerable, it is your Achilles’ heel. It must be dealt with or it can cost you dearly.

So I listen a little more. I analyse a little more. Where I need an extra ear or extra eye from someone stronger in my weak areas I get the help. I ask for advice.

But there are some people who are opposites to me. For example, they are the kind of people who will over-analyse things and never take action. They want everything to be perfect before they act. Such people would do well to take a little more risk. To plan less and execute more. To team up with people who are less risk averse.

Balance is key

Balance. That is the key. You must balance your behaviour. Understand and utilise your strengths, but also understand and minimise your weaknesses. Both sides of the equation must be balanced.

Sometimes though, it is wise to give up. When you have given it your utmost best and tried and tried again and things still do not work out, there is no shame in letting go.

The trick is to learn your lessons. If you learn from the experience, then it is not failure at all. It is s stepping stone. You can apply those lessons to another venture.

Foregt your “sunk costs”

Remember the finance principle of sunk costs. Just because you have spent so much money in a business venture or spent so much time in a relationship it does not mean you need to hang on forever. Those are sunk costs and should not influence your future decision as to whether to carry on or not.

The only thing that should influence that decision is your prospects of future success. That requires careful analysis and understanding of both past and future behaviour.

Focus on the future

The future is all that matters, not the past. But apply your learning from the past. Live according to the present truth of your situation and not according to what you would like to believe it to be.

Live according to the truth.

Christ’s Second Coming – Exposing The Myths & Lies

Open Bible showing The Revelation

Friends, let us look at scripture and learn what it teaches about Christ’s second coming.

I take much of this from Revelation, in particular the sequence of the SEVEN SEALS, SEVEN TRUMPETS and SEVEN VIALS.

Allow me to explain plainly what these seals, trumpets and vials signify. The Seven seals were set in motion when Christ rose from the dead and defeated death (See Revelation 5). As far as I can tell, we are somewhere on the 5th seal because at this point the saints of God who were slain ask God how long it will be before their deaths are avenged (Rev 6:10) – no surprise therefore that many mock and say Christ has been returning forever and nothing seems to be happening.

The Seventh seal ushers in the seven trumpets, which are the beginning of God’s judgment upon the earth. During the trumpets we have disasters and calamities striking the earth (hail, fire, destruction of trees, fish and so on) from the first to the sixth trumpet. Some of these calamities are the same ones that are unleashed during the seven vials that follow, only at a smaller scale, a sort of warning if you like of what is to come. Those that know the scriptures and believe will recognise these signs as God’s final days in which men can repent (Rev 6 – 10 or so).

God says he will shorten those days for the elect’s sake:

Mark 13:19 – “For in those days shall be affliction, such as was not from the beginning of the creation which God created unto this time, neither shall be. And except that the Lord had shortened those days, no flesh should be saved: but for the elect’s sake, whom he hath chosen, he hath shortened the days.”

The seventh trumpet is important as it marks Christ’s return and first resurrection of the righteous. The unrighteous are resurrected in the second resurrection much later on. At this trumpet the righteous (alive and resurrected) meet Christ in the air and the unrighteous are left behind to face God’s full wrath (the seven vials).

Two things to note in this which rapture teachers miss:

  1. a) The righteous DO live through a period of great tribulation (the first six trumpets) and
  2. b) the unrighteous are left behind to face God’s judgement and punishment and will not be given another opportunity to repent during that time.

With that overview, let us look at some specific features of Christ’s second coming:

  1.  Christ’s second coming shall not be in secret. In this regard the teaching of a secret “rapture” of the elect is totally false and misleading. When Christ returns everyone shall know he has returned. He will have with him all his saints (see verse point number 2 below). Those that remain on the earth when he returns because they did not believe will see him, they will know with certainty that he came and to their horror, that they were left behind and have no further hope for repentance. They will face the horrifying reality that now all that remains is God’s wrath on them (the seven vials).


Hebrews 9:28 – “So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.”

Matthew 24:27 – “For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.”

Revelation 1:7 – “Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen.

  1. Christ’s return shall not come as “thief in the night” to the elect. It shall only come as a surprise or unexpectedly to those that are not waiting for it – those that are not saved and therefore not looking out for it nor reading the signs of the times.


1 Thessalonians 5:2 – “For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness.”

  1. Christ shall return with ALL his saints. That includes you if you are a believer. This is so because at Christ’s return all that are saved and alive shall be caught up in the air to meet him. Those that are dead but righteous at the time will be resurrected (the first resurrection, the second, which happens 1,000 years later is for those that are not saved).


1 Corinthians 15:51 – “Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,  in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.”

1 Thessalonians 3:13 – “To the end he may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints.”

1 Thessalonians 4:15 – “For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.”

  1. The seventh trumpet in Revelation marks several things. Firstly, the resurrection of the righteous dead, secondly the end of time as we know it, and lastly and most importantly, the second coming of Christ.


1 Corinthians 15:51 – “Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.”

Revelation 10:5 – “And the angel which I saw stand upon the sea and upon the earth lifted up his hand to heaven, and sware by him that liveth for ever and ever, who created heaven, and the things that therein are, and the earth, and the things that therein are, and the sea, and the things which are therein, that there should be time no longer:  But in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he shall begin to sound, the mystery of God should be finished, as he hath declared to his servants the prophets.”

1 Thessalonians 4:15 – “For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.”

You see from all these scriptures then that anyone claiming that Christ has returned, such as Haile Selassie and so on, is teaching false things. Christ warned us of this:

Matthew 24:24 – “For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. Behold, I have told you before. Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not. For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.”

This tells us also plainly that ALL will see that Christ has returned without a doubt.

Know this for a fact…when Christ returns you will know, whether you believe or not! It is our duty as Christians to prepare by meditating on scripture, especially prophecy, praying and watching.

Revelation 22:20 – “He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.”