Cholera: Malawi fears outbreak could worsen in rainy season

Malawi’s health minister Khumbize Chiponda

MALAWI’S health minister Khumbize Chiponda, on Thursday reported that Malawi was in the grip of a cholera outbreak which had spread across the country, killing 292.

According to Chiponda, the Cholera outbreak, which started in March, has infected 9,447 people.

The minister said most deaths from the disease, which occurred in four districts bordering Lake Malawi and Blantyre, was through contaminated water and food.

He said treatment camps, mostly make-shift tents, had been set up and cholera patients were arriving in droves, putting pressure on an already overwhelmed health care system depleted of essential medicines and equipment.

Chiponda added that most deaths occurred because the patients visited the facilities when it was already too late for treatment as the disease had progressed.

The outbreak now has a mortality rate of 3.1 per cent up from 2 per cent in March, according to the minister.

Reuters journalists visited three major treatment centres around Blantyre, located in Limbe and Ndirande in the central urban business district, and Chileka in the rural outskirts.

“We are anticipating more cases, but are still not well prepared in terms of equipment supplies, and knowledge capacities,’’ said Eunice Mselemu, a nurse at Ndirande clinic, in Blantyre’s most densely populated township.

However, health workers fear the worst is yet to come as current cases were recorded before the start of the rainy season.

“It’s the first time I have experienced Cholera hitting so hard before the rainy season,’’ said Violet Mota, a senior health surveillance assistant at Limbe Clinic.

John Mangani is one of those who received rehydrating fluids and treatment too late into the disease to survive, his family said.

“Everything seems to have happened so fast and we lost him,’’ said Aida, Mangani’s sister in Chiswe, a village near Limbe Clinic.

Meanwhile, Malawi is yet to roll out a second phase of Cholera vaccines after receiving 2.9 million doses through the World Health Organisation earlier this month, leaving many people scrambling for left-over doses of an earlier vaccination campaign in May. (Reuters/NAN)

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