Region of Concern: Malawi
Written By Mridul Mahendroo; Edited by Amy McGee and Jennifer Loy
Date: December 23, 2022
Event: On Thursday, December 23, Malawi’s Health Minister declared that the cholera outbreak in the country had resulted in 410 deaths and 13,837 infections since March. The hardest hit areas are Mangochi and Blantyre cities. The President claimed that this was a public health emergency and has asked the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19 to help in reducing the spread of the disease. People in the most affected areas have been asked to get vaccinated. The second phase of vaccination has not yet been completed in the risk-prone areas but Malawi has received aid from the World Health Organization's dispatch of 2.9 million doses of vaccine.
Significance: It is likely that the lakeshore districts are more affected by the disease due to the contamination of the water sources and the lack of sanitation and water treatment. Populations living on a fish-based diet and eating raw food are more likely to catch the disease. It is likely that the shortage of medical supplies such as gloves, syringes, and prescribed drugs will leave medical workers exposed to the disease and the lack of rapid treatment will lead to additional deaths. The presence of travelers in risk-prone areas is likely to expose them to the disease and is likely to further spread cholera in other regions due to its high contagiousness. The presence of rain in the near future is likely to increase the spread of the disease as rain is likely to contaminate new bodies of water.
Recommendations: The Health Ministry should increase its partnership with the WHO and local NGOs to send medical experts to increase the rate of vaccination in risk-prone areas. Funds from the WHO should be obtained to provide populations with clean water and food until the rate of infection becomes negative. The government should issue travel advisories for those who are not adequately vaccinated and people with underlying or serious health conditions. The stock of vaccines, medicine, cholera testing kits, and antibiotics in hospitals and clinics throughout the country should be verified by the Ministry of Health and replenished if not sufficient. Medical teams should be sent to areas that are difficult to access. A research group composed of medical and scientific experts should be formed to identify the presence of contaminated bodies of water and sensitize local populations through the intervention of medical experts in high-risk areas. The government should collaborate with the UNICEF to construct a long-term permanent nationwide structure of sanitary infrastructure such as toilets and sewage systems to lower the risks of water contamination in the future. This collaboration should extend to an educational campaign to create awareness and transform people's dietary and sanitary habits to avoid major resurgence of this disease.
Malawi cholera death toll crosses 400 as outbreak spreads, Reuters, December 2022, https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/malawi-cholera-death-toll-crosses-400-outbreak-spreads-2022-12-22/