* Don’t listen those misguided characters who preach that drugs or medicines are satanic
* The last I checked, doctors, nurses, pharmacists and researchers in the medical profession were all created in the image of God
* And I haven’t heard any declaration to the contrary
By Duncan Mlanjira
Vice-President Saulos Chilima, while appealing to the faith community traditional leaders to help government in convincing their subordinates to access cholera treatment, takes a swipe at religions that discourage congregants from assessing medical care amidst the raging outbreak.
He said this on Friday when he opened the regional meeting of Ministers on cholera and other epidemics held at Bingu International Convention Centre (BICC) that was convened to find solutions for concerted efforts to fight the pandemic.
This was when he acknowledged and applauded the assistance the country is receiving from development partners — in particular, the WHO and the Global Task Force on Cholera Control for the provision of the oral cholera vaccine that was crucial in containing the outbreak.
He added that besides the vaccine, the Ministry of Health “continues to put much emphasis on sanitation and hygiene as crucial elements to contain the disease”.
“And as it is the case with endeavors like these, Malawi continues to encounter a number of social challenges bordering on religious beliefs, misinformation and disinformation.
“We appeal to our religious and traditional leaders to stand up to the occasion and help government to convince their subordinates to access cholera treatment — this is a matter of life and death.
“Don’t listen those misguided characters who preach that drugs or medicines are satanic. The last I checked, doctors, nurses, pharmacists and researchers in the medical profession were all created in the image of God and I haven’t heard any declaration to the contrary.
“Please ignore such satanic preachers who are the devil’s mentors. It is, therefore, our collective expectation that this meeting will discuss and find solutions to these challenges which I am sure they are also common across our continent.”
Cholera cases escalated soon after Christmas Day when at that time the total figure of fatalities was at 470 deaths but by the New Year’s Day the figure shot to 595 — representing a rise of 125.
The figures keep rising that by Saturday evening, March 11, the total was at 1,630 — an increase of 1,035 for the past two months and 11 days.
In the cholera update from the Ministry of Health indicate the fatalities are dropping as on March 1st, there were 5 new deaths; followed by 14 on 2nd; 6 on 3rd; 2 on 4th; 7 on Monday the 6th; 4 on Tuesday; 4 on Wednesday; 3 on Thursday; and 5 on Saturday.
At the meeting Chilima also touched on the topic that is now high on the global agenda, Climate Change, saying the impact on global shifts in temperatures and weather patterns has negatively affected most of the countries at the meeting.
He cited that the cholera outbreak that has devastated Malawi is an aftermath of tropical cyclones Ana and Gombe, an indication that “climate change has indeed negatively impacted on health service delivery and influenced disease burden and patterns of some infectious diseases”.
“Indeed, the increase in extreme weather events contribute to the worsening of people’s health status and damaging of health physical infrastructure including medical equipment and sanitation facilities.
“It is a fact that climate change is here among us and what we need to do is to roll into action in our respective countries to ensure that we continue taking proactive approaches to future disasters and disease outbreaks.
“On our part, Malawi was among the first African countries to officially engage to the COP26 Health Initiatives for Building Climate Resilient and Sustainable Low Carbon Health Systems.
“Under this initiative, Malawi is already facilitating access to funding for the implementation of the country’s Climate Change and Health activities. These activities range from increasing the resilience of health systems and reducing carbon emissions from the sector.
“We have already started installing solar systems instead of diesel generators in our health facilities. We also plan to buy energy efficient medical equipment to minimize carbon emissions.
“In this way we will reduce the health sector’s carbon footprint. This builds on the interventions Malawi has been implementing since 2014 under Global Framework for Climate Services (GFCS) project funded by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and ‘Delivering climate-resilient water and sanitation in Africa and Asia project’ funded by Foreign Common Wealth Development Office (FCDO).”
He thus emphasized that to continue registering success stories in southern Africa in as far as climate change is concerned, “adequate and predictable funding remains key to advance health and climate change priorities as well as adequate preparation and desired effective response to disasters”.
“There are limited funding opportunities for health and climate change interventions and also preparatory phases of the contingency plans hence we fail to adequately implement these plans.”
The high level delegation included chairperson of the African Union, Moussa Faki Mahamat; WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti; acting director of Africa CDC, Dr Ahmed Ogwell Ouma; and Ministers from Tanzania, Zambia, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Namibia, Republic of Angola, Botswana, Comoros, DRC, Eswathini, Lesotho and Madagascar.