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Cholera outbreak worsens in Malawi

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Jan 05, 2023 - 08:27 AM

BLANTYRE, Malawi (AA) – Malawi is grappling with a devastating cholera outbreak that has affected entire communities as the East African country battles poverty, hunger and other diseases.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic and poliovirus resurgence, this week, life came to a standstill in the nation of 18.5 million people: schools in commercial hub Blantyre and the capital Lilongwe were forced to close as cholera deaths surpassed the 600 mark.

Flea markets have been closed in Blantyre while food vending in markets and schools has been completely shut nationwide.

“Most affected by the outbreaks are poor people who have lost all means of earning a living. Government should have handled the crisis better,” John Kapito, executive director of the Consumers Association of Malawi, told Anadolu Agency.

The country has so far recorded 18,676 cholera cases and 625 deaths. About 882 patients, meanwhile, are still in treatment centers.

Health Minister Khumbize Chiponda said with the onset of the rainy season in Malawi, there could be a severe spike in cholera cases.

Cholera, an acute diarrheal disease caused by an infection of the intestine, can lead to severe dehydration and death if left untreated.

Despite a combination of interventions, including a vaccine drive that started last May, the outbreak has kept on spreading and has now affected all 28 districts in the country.

“Cases are indeed rising and efforts to vaccinate as many people as possible are being hampered by resistance and myths in some communities,” Chiponda said.

Health experts are particularly concerned about the impact the outbreak will have on the vulnerable in the community, especially pregnant and lactating mothers.

“When the affected do not receive sufficient nutrients, this poses a great risk to their immunity, which becomes severely weakened,” Maziko Matemba, a health expert, told Anadolu Agency.

Many fatalities have occurred in the communities and or at facilities due to people coming late for treatment.

“Religious beliefs are contributing to late reporting to the health center, and this is leading to the further spread of the disease,” said the health minister.

Malawi Prison Services, which recorded the first inmate death on New Year’s Eve, is also concerned that the disease could have a severe impact on prison facilities.

Blantyre Prison spokesperson Duncan Malizani told Anadolu Agency that the number of cholera cases has jumped from four last week to 13 now.​​​​​​​

“We have recorded two cholera deaths and 13 cases. Out of the 13, four have been discharged, while eight are in treatment centers,” said Malizani.

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