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Cholera on rampage

Death toll stands at 530

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Adrian Chikumbe

Cholera has started to seriously put a burden on Malawi’s health system, driving up the demand for additional health workers and treatment camps, the Ministry of Health has admitted.

Thursday, 25 new deaths related to the disease, whose current outbreak was first recorded in March this year, were recorded to bring the total number to 530.

The Ministry of Health has since advised authorities in the most hit districts to set up cholera treatment camps so that patients do not move long distances to treatment centres to avoid infecting others along the way.

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The ministry’s spokesperson Adrian Chikumbe said the disease has caused pressure on human resource and that the ministry is currently contemplating recruiting additional health workers.

“We are still consulting to see if at some point, we may have to recruit more staff. We are also mobilising resources with partners so that we have the required supplies in all the facilities,” Chikumbe said.

He added that the main challenge in containing cholera is poor compliance with preventive measures that are being disseminated by health experts.

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“We do not need new measures. If all of us complied with these measures, we would be able to contain the disease,” Chikumbe said.

He cited the use of unsafe water and consuming unhygienic food as the main cause of the continued spread.

Meanwhile, Malawi Health Equity Network (Mhen) Executive Director George Jobe has concurred with the Ministry of Health on the need to recruit additional health workers “even if it means having volunteers”.

In an interview Thursday, Jobe also called for the intensification of cholera prevention messages beyond the traditional media channels.

“Sometimes when you see people the way they are behaving, it is like we do not have cholera in our midst. There are people who keep consuming cold food from the streets,” he said.

The Centre for Democracy and Economic Development Initiatives (Cdedi) has challenged the government to make sure that resources for the treatment of the disease are supplied to all treatment centres.

Cdedi Executive Director Sylvester Namiwa said his organisation has received reports of shortage of cholera kits and has since challenged the ministry to prove the reports wrong.

According to the Ministry of Health, 324 new cases of cholera were recorded Thursday, driving up the cumulative confirmed cases since March to 15,684.

The most common symptom of cholera, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), is acute watery diarrhoea with severe dehydration.

The United Nations health agency says it takes between 12 hours and five days for a person to show symptoms after ingesting contaminated food or water.

The disease affects both children and adults and can kill within hours if untreated, WHO says.

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