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Schools open as cholera rages

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Chikondano Mussa

As schools open this week, there are fears that they might act as a fertile ground for the spread of cholera, which has claimed over 576 lives in the just ended year.

The development comes at a time Ministry of Education officials have said schools will open as planned.

However, Teachers Union of Malawi (Tum) leaders say, if school authorities do not improve on following hygiene protocols, the cholera situation may spill out of control.

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Secretary for Education Chikondano Mussa told The Daily Times Sunday that all schools are set to open but with strict observation of standard operating procedures that the ministry provided last year.

Mussa said the ministry has not received any advice from the Ministry of Health to suspend the school opening activity.

She said procedures, which include referring to health facilities any suspected cholera case, carrying out hygiene inspection among learners and monitoring their attendance, were provided in October last year.

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“I have urged head teachers, PEAs [primary education advisers] and district education managers to ensure that they monitor adherence to the guidelines. I have urged for adherence to the three hygiene practices.

“Most importantly, I have urged community members to be on high alert to ensure that the ban we’ve put on food vending in schools is observed,” Mussa said.

The ministry has also encouraged people to use toilets in schools, avoid open defecation, use potable water stored in buckets around school premises and wash hands with soap.

Meanwhile, Tum President Willy Malimba has advised teachers to improve on hygiene by sealing overflowing toilets and, when necessary, report to the authorities about any hindrances to following hygiene protocols.

“Sanitation is a problem in some schools. We are asking teachers to seriously monitor levels of sanitation as we know that the disease is spread quickly when there is poor hygiene.

“Toilets that are overflowing should be abandoned,” Malimba said.

According to the Ministry of Health, cholera continues spreading mainly because people are failing to adhere to preventative measures which include washing hands with soap before preparing food and observing standard food hygiene.

Cholera is spread through drinking contaminated water or consuming contaminated food and causes acute diarrhoea leading to dehydration.

Health Minister Khumbize Kandodo Chiponda has since appealed to traditional, block and religious leaders to notify healthcare workers whenever there are people hiding or preventing suspected cholera patients from seeking care.

“It has sadly been noted that some patients with profuse vomiting and diarrhoea are refraining from seeking care due to various reasons including religious beliefs.

“Unfortunately, this has led to productive citizens losing their lives, yet this could have been avoided if they were brought to care early in our facilities,” Kandodo Chiponda said in a statement on Saturday.

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