WHO raises cholera crisis to grade 3 emergency


The World Health Organization (WHO) has described the current outbreak in Malawi “the deadliest in the country’s history”.

WHO said this when its Africa region office held a virtual press briefing on Thursday. Cholera first broke out in Malawi in March 2022.

Latest figures show that there have since been more than 1,300 deaths and over 40,000 cases registered thus far.


According to WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the United Nations body has raised a global cholera crisis to a grade three emergency.

“We have now raised the global cholera crisis to a grade three emergency, the highest level in our internal grading system, due to the high case fatality, the potential for further spread and severe limitations in vaccine supply,” he said.

WHO gives grade 3 to a single country or multiple country emergency, requiring a major WHO response. It appoints an emergency officer at its headquarters, to assist with the coordination of organization-wide inputs in the fight against the disease.


WHO’s Africa Incident Manager for cholera, Patrick Otim Ramada, said it is about time governments in Africa’s affected countries start to invest in long-term clean water and hygiene interventions.

“This is a multisectoral effort, not only a health issue. It requires, like we did for Covid, a whole governmental response so that governments really prioritise and invest in interventions that increase the availability of safe drinking water and hygiene facilities for populations in their countries in the region,” he said.

Otim highlighted the central role of climate change in aggravating the cholera outbreaks in drought-hit areas of Kenya and the Horn of Africa and the intense rainy season in Southern Africa.

“The cyclone season, which has already hit Madagascar this year, has the potential to spread the disease further across Southern Africa,” he said.

In his update during the briefing, Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Health Charles Mwansambo said the government is doing the best it can to contain the situation.

“Currently we have scaled up efforts to deal with the situation as the Covid-19 taskforce has also been mandated to look at the cholera situation and put measures in place to curb the situation affecting the country,” he said.

Health rights commentator George Jobe said there is need to review a way of living and re[1]invest in waste collection vans for the cities.

“There is more congestion now in our towns than 10 years ago, with increased activities and interactions, which calls for decongesting the cities by creating rural trading centres through expansion of rural electrification.

“In addition, there is a need to encourage households to have dust/waste bins. There is a need to construct and maintain well public free toilets in Malawian cities and towns,” he said.

Speaking to BBC two weeks ago, President Lazarus Chakwera President Lazarus Chakwera suggested that studies be done to establish the link he says exists between cholera and climate change.

According to Chakwera, there has been an unprecedented level of water-borne diseases since the devastating floods that hit Malawi last year, affecting most of southern region.

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