Health crisis looms in Karonga
THERE is fear and panic that a health disaster could be waiting to happen in Karonga where about 30,000 people stationed in camps are residing in a congested and unclean environment in the aftermath of recurring floods of the past few weeks.
Official records indicate that 8, 286 households were left destitute following the devastating incessant heavy downpour that lasted for weeks.
The Sunday Times has established that six evacuation camps have been established where people are living in deplorable conditions.
In certain instances, a tent with a capacity to accommodate 15 people is accommodating up to 69 individuals. Reports also indicate that some affected households are yet to be reached out with food relief items and have since been sleeping on empty stomachs.
Concerns have also been raised on the seemingly lack of a proper contingency plan for outbreaks such as cholera and skin infections.
But Ministry of Health spokesperson, Adrian Chikumbe, insisted they have the situation under control while stressing that the ministry does not deal directly with issues of disaster since they fall under the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC).
“There is no specific policy for us as the Health Ministry, but there are number of clusters to which we are part of and they are automatically activated when disaster strikes, so we have health staff on the ground helping in various interventions through such key committees,” he explained.
Traditional Authority Kilupula whose over 15,000 subjects have been left in desperate need of housing, food and sanitary facilities in an interview yesterday sympathised with pregnant women, lactating mothers and under-five children.
“Our systems could be overwhelmed as we can all agree that this is the worst flood disaster to be experienced in the district since every river and stream has burst, but wherever possible I would have loved to see these special groups [pregnant women, lactating mothers and under-five children]being prioritised with assistance,” Kilupula said.
Chairperson of the Village Protection Committee at Kakoma, Rainford Mwanunga shared the chief’s sentiments. “People are yet to receive any food assistance; the starvation is worrisome especially among children and pregnant women. We are waiting to hear from authorities,” Mwanunga said.
Commenting on the situation District Scouts Programmes Coordinator in the OPC Lusubilo Mwenelupembe admitted there are big gaps in the response to the disaster.
He said despite distributing mosquito nets, there is lack of water treatment chemicals and sanitary items like toilets in some camps. On the food situation, Mwenelupembe said priority was given to those in camps over those in their communities.
“Today we are expecting more trucks of food to arrive. The relief items distributed in the first round targeted those in dire need; those in camps. The second round will target those who are in the community. More tents are also coming in order to decongest the camps,” he outlined.
Mwenelupembe also cited the traffic disruption by the damaged Jalawe Bridge few days ago as one of the major setbacks as it led to intermittent flow in of Department of Disaster Management Affairs relief items.
Disaster risk management officer for Karonga Walusungu Mwafulirwa has since hailed a number of non-governmental organisations which have joined efforts with the department in mitigating impact of the disaster.
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