* Coming hot on the heels of elimination of infectious eye disease trachoma
* Elephantiasis was a major public health problem in Malawi
* With seropositivity rate ranging from 1% to as high as 74% in some parts of country
* Ministry of Health applauds support from partners as it has changed people’s lives
* The Ministry continues to focus on high impact cost effective interventions, health promotion and disease prevention efforts
By Natasha Muthete, MANA
Coming hot on the heels of elimination of infectious eye disease trachoma — which has been lauded by World Health Organisation (WHO) — Malawi has earned an award on the elimimination of Lymphatic Filariasis (elephantiasis).
Announcing the good news at the opening of the 2022 Global Alliance to Eliminate Lymphatic Filariasis (GAELF) on Wednesday at Bingu International Conference, Minister of Health, Khumbize Kandodo Chiponda expressed her appreciation to the international and local partners for support rendered to the Malawi neglected tropical disease (NTDs) program.
The Minister said elephantiasis was a major public health problem in Malawi with seropositivity rate ranging from 1% to as high as 74% in some parts of country.
“As a Ministry, we are excited with the award, because through this support has changed people’s lives has been transformed,” she said. “The Ministry continues to focus on high impact cost effective interventions, health promotion and disease prevention efforts.”
Chiponda added that President Lazarus Chakwera endorsed the Kigali Declaration on NTDs and he is 100% committed to ending neglected tropical diseases in Malawi.
“The holding of GAELF meeting in Malawi has added on to the efforts and momentum by Malawi Government to ending of the suffering that people have due to the NTDs,” she said.
Representative of the World Health Organisation (WHO) for Malawi, Dr. Neema Kimambo said the country and Africa need to continue to be alert, to put effort to fight other deceases.
“We should also make sure that the diseases that we have eliminated are not coming back,” she said. “Some have the effect of the disease, therefore we need to make sure we treat those, we need to continue to provide guidance and technical support.”
Task force member for Global Health, Charles D. Mackenzie said the motive for supporting countries all over the world is to end the suffering around the world.
“Such diseases destroy people’s lives, for 22 years now we have been working to eliminate those diseases in different countries in order to change people’s lives,” Mackenzie said.
Lymphatic filariasis also known as elephantiasis is a vector-borne neglected tropical disease caused by the filariae wuchereria bancrofti and is endemic in 34 African countries.
Meanwhile, Her Royal Highness The Countess of Wessex GCVO, who is Global Ambassador for the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB), is in Malawi from today (Wednesday) till Friday to celebrate with the Malawian Government and partners, for the huge steps taken over the last decade to eliminate the infectious eye disease trachoma.
Sophie, The Countess of Wessex is a member of the British royal family, who is married to Prince Edward, the Earl of Wessex — the youngest brother of King Charles III.
A statement from the British High Commission to Malawi in Lilongwe, says Countess Sophie will visit Salima District to see first-hand how the national trachoma elimination programme has benefited the lives of the people of Malawi.
She is also to appreciate how the Ministry of Health and their partners have worked at the district level to implement the interventions required to stop the spread of trachoma as well as taking part in activities to mark World Sight Day in Malawi tomorrow, October 13.
The High Commission says Her Royal Highness will also visit Kamuzu Central Hospital in Lilongwe to appreciate the work of the ophthalmology department in tackling blindness as well as seeing how other UK Aid-funded programmes, including the oxygen plant that was built in 2020 as part of the CoVID-19 response, helped save lives at the height of the pandemic.
British High Commissioner to Malawi, Fiona Ritchie is quoted as saying: “We are delighted to welcome HRH The Countess of Wessex to Malawi to join celebrations to mark the elimination of trachoma.
“This is the outcome of investment and strong partnerships between the government, Sightsavers and development partners including UKAid.
“Malawi is rightly proud to tell this remarkable story to the whole world about the impressive health outcomes that can be achieved despite numerous challenges, disruptions and economic shocks, for example Covid-19, and natural disasters such as cyclones and floods.”
Trachoma, one of the 20 diseases classed as NTDs, is the world’s leading infectious cause of blindness. Last month, the World Health Organisation (WHO) announced that Malawi had become the first country in Southern Africa to eliminate it.
Predominant in areas where there are chronic water shortages and poor sanitation, trachoma starts off as a bacterial infection similar to conjunctivitis. It is easily treatable through antibiotics.
However, if left untreated, the disease causes progressive scarring to the eyelid, causing intense pain and eventually leading to permanent blindness.
Trachoma has affected over 9.5 million people nationwide in 2014 and according to world health experts, the disease is a devastating condition which can turn eyelashes inwards so that they scrape painfully against the eyeball – and left untreated causes permanent sight loss.
The elimination follows 12 years of sustained action led by the Malawi government with a network of support spearheaded by the non-profit Sightsavers.
It is the first country-funded by The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust to achieve this milestone. The Trust was established in 2012 to create a legacy for late Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, by eliminating trachoma in the Commonwealth.—Additional reporting by & Duncan Mlanjira, Maravi Express