Malawi has registered 1,029 cholera cases in the past 16 days, pushing the total figure to 4,028, according to data by the Public Health Institute of Malawi (PHIM).
By September 20, 2022, the country had 2,999 cases of the disease.
The steep rise has left health experts worried, calling for a more robust response to contain the disease which is hitting hard at the time of the year it is hardly expected in Malawi.
In previous incidences, cholera cases have been registered largely during rainy season, and at numbers lower than being registered now.
George Jobe, Executive Director for Malawi Health Equity Network (Mhen) Jobe further said the situation is a cause for panic considering that Malawi is approaching the rainy season.
“This is very worrisome and we have to contain it now before the rainy season. We need to find out what we can do differently and do it quickly so that we contain the situation before rains start,” he said.
Health rights activist Maziko Matemba said since the first case was recorded in Machinga on March 2, 2022 the situation should have changed for the better due to interventions in place now.
“The sad thing is that looking at the history we are coming from [of Covid-19] and managing this pandemic, it has been about hygiene. So long as hygiene is not managed it will be difficult to contain the disease,” he said.
According to Matemba the current outbreak has been the most prolonged as compared to the previous years’.
At a press briefing in Lilongwe Friday, Minister of Health Khumbize Kandodo Chiponda said the ministry and its stakeholders have reviewed the available response plan to ensure the situation is contained.
Chiponda further said the country expects to receive 2 million doses of cholera vaccine shortly.
“We recently called for a meeting with all stakeholders. We reviewed our response plan on cholera, looked at what is causing the escalation and how we can deal with it,” she said.
She further said the country has roughly 60 days to the rainy season which she admitted could worsen the situation if it is not contained now.
Kandodo Chiponda said cholera is easily preventable as long as people observe good hygiene practices.
“We are working with the Ministry of Water and Sanitation to see how this disease can be contained before the rainy season,” she said, calling upon traditional and faith leaders to take it upon themselves to educate their subjects on the disease and how it can be prevented.
So far, the affected districts include Machinga, Nsanje Chikwawa, Blantyre, Mulanje, Neno, Balaka, Lilongwe, Nkhata Bay, Nkhotakota, Phalombe, Mangochi, Rumphi, Mzuzu and Balaka.
According to World Health Organisation, each year there are 1.3 to 4 million cases of cholera worldwide.
An acute diarrhoeal disease, cholera can kill within hours if left untreated, it says.
“Provision of safe water and sanitation is critical to prevent and control the transmission of cholera and other waterborne diseases,” says the WHO.
The UN body also says oral cholera vaccines should be used in conjunction with improvements in water and sanitation to control cholera outbreaks and for prevention in areas known to be high risk for cholera.