Even when it is difficult to predict where, exactly, outbreaks such as cholera may strike, it is only fair to expect that the authorities always plan for such eventualities.
Which is why we ask— in the wake of reports that cholera continues to wreak havoc in the lakeshore district of Karonga, which has since registered 51 cases of cholera— about where people entrusted with the task of stemming the outbreak were when the number of registered cases rose from one to 51.
We ask because, as early as August this year, cholera cases were registered in Chikwawa District, which was enough to put the authorities on high alert. But, as often happens in Malawi, this did not happen, and cases of cholera in Karonga District seem to be taking us by surprise.
We are sure that we have not done enough to prepare for outbreaks such as these because we have not heard of health officials conducting sensitisation campaigns aimed at informing people that, since the rains are on us, we may have undesirable consequences such as cholera outbreaks.
In fact, it is not just health officials who have been caught napping. The Department of Disaster Management Affairs (DoDMA), which spearheads the national response to disasters, has not been pro-active in the sense that it is yet to start sensitising people who live in flood-prone areas to move upland.
And, yet, DoDMA and all of us know that there are areas that get affected by natural disasters on almost a yearly basis. Now, as they say, failing to plan is planning to fail.
With District Environmental Health officials in Karonga fearing for the worst, as the rainy season progresses, we can only ask those in the echelons of power to channel more resources towards disaster preparedness and the dissemination of health education messages. In fact, we need to emphasise the promotion of preventive measures so that, in the long run, we may serve resources that would, otherwise, have gone towards limiting the damage.
Officials in other parts of the country should be on alert, in case their catchment areas are hit by cholera and other disasters. The response in other parts of the country should act as a springboard on which we may become more assured in our response to calamity.
As the rains continue to fall in different parts of the country, we can do ourselves a service by providing medical resources to those already affected, while disseminating information pertaining to the necessity of avoid practices that may compromise the fight against diseases such as cholera, as well as natural disasters that, while we acknowledge that they may be inevitable, we may do something to take the sting taken out of them.
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