Malawi doing well in cholera management as cases drop

By Martin Chiwanda, MANA

Ministry of Health says management of cholera cases is on the right track as the country has so far only registered three cholera cases this year.

Ministry of Health’s Cholera Focal Person, Wiseman Chimwaza disclosed the development in an interview Tuesday after he made a presentation to Nsanje District Executive Committee on the introduction of Oral Cholera Vaccination (OCV) campaign week.

Chimwaza said the country is doing well in terms of managing cholera and control due to the promotion of access to safe water and improvement in sanitation — which are the pillars of cholera management and control.

“For instance, in the year 2016/2017 the country registered 939 cases and 32 deaths. In the subsequent year, the country recorded 26 cholera cases and one death.

“This year, which is ending this month in as far as cholera calendar is concerned, we have only registered three cases and no death.

“So, as per the statistics, cholera cases are really dropping due to the increased access to safe water and improvement in sanitation as they are the pillars in the management of cholera,” Chimwaza said.

On the OCV to be administered in four districts including Nsanje which are considered to be the hotspots for cholera outbreak, Chimwaza said it will help to have no cases in the future.

He, however, said the vaccine will work effectively if people in the targeted districts will observe all the indicators of Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH).

“The vaccine is targeting 260,000 people in Nsanje from ages one and above. We are targeting other districts like Phalombe, Zomba and Machinga which are the most vulnerable areas in as far as cholera outbreak is concern.

“We want people to get vaccinated and also be observing the WASH issues so that the fight against the cholera outbreak should be achieved,” he said.

WASH system

Nsanje District commissioner, Dr Medson Matchaya welcomed the development as he described it as a milestone in the work of fighting cholera outbreak in the district.

Matchaya noted that Nsanje has always been hit by cholera outbreak, hence, the coming in of the vaccine will control the emergence of the disease in the district.

In appreciating that African countries waged an effective campaign to combat the spread of Coronavirus despite their reputation for having fragile state heath systems, one of the factors that contributed to this was the good community health systems done when dealing with an outbreak.

Ebola outbreak in DRC

The BBC reported that COVID-19 pandemic came at a time when the Democratic Republic of Congo was dealing with its biggest outbreak of Ebola yet and that prompted neighbouring states to be on high alert, and the health screening of travellers for Ebola was extended to include COVID-19.

Several West African states — which battled the world’s worst ever outbreak of Ebola from 2013-16 — had also mastered the public health measures that have been used to prevent COVID-19, including isolating the infected, tracing their contacts and then getting them quarantined while they get tested.

The lower fatalities due to the COVID-19 pandemic since April is probably through the WASH system that Ministry of Health and other stakeholders have been campaigning for long before COVID-19.

WASH was the centre of the preventive measures people were encouraged to perform in order to reduce the spread of COVID-19 such as the frequent handwashing with water and soap (Water); proper wearing of face mask, avoiding over-crowded places (Sanitation) and practicing cough and sneeze etiquette (Hygiene).—Additional reporting by Duncan Mlanjira, Maravi Express

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