Malawi faces worst-ever cholera outbreak with 990 people killed


Malawi’s worst cholera outbreak on record has left 990 people dead, with only one district managing to contain the disease.

The landlocked nation, prone to tropical storms and cyclones, has been battling a resurgence of the water-borne diarrheal disease since March. A previous outbreak that started in April 2001 killed 968 people in the country, according to the World Health Organisation.

While most people can be treated successfully for cholera through prompt administration of oral rehydration solution, sparsely located hospitals and delays in seeking treatment have exacerbated the problem and lead to fatalities, Health Minister Khumbize Kandodo Chiponda said in a statement Monday.

The rainy season, which began in November, has led to floods and displaced people who then lack access to safe water and sanitation. Malawi’s case fatality rate is 3.3%, compared with 2.1% in Haiti’s most recent cholera outbreak.

Malawi’s efforts to contain the disease are also being hampered by a lack of vaccines. The country received 3.9 million doses from the WHO in May and 2.9 million doses from UNICEF in November. With these stocks now depleted, Malawi is in talks with the WHO for another consignment.

Still, outbreaks in other countries have depleted cholera vaccine stockpiles worldwide. In October, the WHO and its partners limited all reactive oral cholera vaccine campaigns to a single dose.

As Malawi fails to stop the disease’s spread, there is growing mistrust between some people and medical personnel. Irate villagers from Nandumbo, 140 kilometers (87 miles) east of Malawi’s commercial capital Blantyre, destroyed a cholera-treatment center on Sunday after claiming local people were being injected with contaminated syringes.

More effort needs to be made to educate people on how to prevent the disease, Adamson Muula, a public health specialist from Kamuzu University of Health Science, said in a Times Radio interview on Tuesday.

© 2023 Bloomberg

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