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Cholera spreads to 22 districts

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Maziko Matemba

The healthcare service delivery system continues to be weighed down by the outbreak of cholera, which has seen the number of districts affected by the outbreak almost double from 12 to 22 within a month, with deaths nearing 100.

Ministry of Health statistics indicates that, by August 25 this year, a total of 12 districts had reported cholera cases but by September 24, which is one month later, the number of affected districts had jumped to 22.

By Saturday last week, cumulative cases had moved from 1,593 last month to 3,246 while 56 patients were admitted to treatment centres, with total deaths at 98.

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“The major factors associated with the cholera outbreak in the communities are poor food hygiene, lack of safe water and low latrines coverage and usage (open defecation),” reads the cholera update statement which Health Minister Khumbize Kandodo Chiponda signed on September 24.

Kandodo Chiponda says most of the cases have occurred while in communities or at health facilities after reporting late for treatment.

She, however, indicates that the government has, through the Ministry of Health and with support from its partners, put in place measures to contain the situation.

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For instance, the ministry is chlorinating water in communities with no safe water, setting up treatment centres and administering oral cholera vaccine.

Out of the affected districts, Nkhata Bay is topping the list, recording 677 cases with 17 deaths. Blantyre comes second, with cases at 571 and 23 deaths.

Apart from battling cholera, the country is fighting against Covid, which has claimed over 2, 600 people since the first case was reported on April 2 2020.

Recently, United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund and the World Health Organisation expressed concern over the increasing number of cholera cases, warning that, if the outbreak spreads more, it would overwhelm the already overburdened public healthcare service delivery points.

Meanwhile, health rights advocate Maziko Matemba has suggested that the government should allocate more resources towards community sensitisation campaigns.

He feared that if community members are not sensitised to cholera issues in time, the country would continue registering cholera cases.

“And, again, Malawians have to observe best hygiene standards as the disease is mostly spread through contaminated water and food,” he said.

The country has been running a cholera oral vaccination campaign as one of the strategies for stemming the tide of infections.

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