The rising cases of cholera, that forced the Presidential Taskforce on Covid-19 and cholera to suspend the opening of second term of primary and secondary schools in Blantyre and Lilongwe, has so far seen the disease’s related deaths soaring to a worrying 105 since January 5.
And it has been accompanied by total of 3,415 new cases in the same period as of Wednesday evening (January 11), the country registered 589 new cases accompanied by 17 new deaths.
Seven of the deaths were reported in Lilongwe; two each in Blantyre, Machinga,Chiradzulu and Zomba one each in Mulanje and Thyolo — bringing the cumulative confirmed cases of deaths at 750 at the fatality rate of 3.30%.
What forced the Taskforce to engage the Ministry of Health to suspend the opening of the new term was that on New Year’s Eve, the country reported a total of 464 new cases and 19 deaths — with Blantyre the highest at 112 followed by Lilongwe (103) and Mangochi (78), the highest number since the onset in March.
And this was just two days towards opening of the second term and a day before the scheduled start of the academic period — on New Year’s Day — the country reported 366 new cases accompanied by 19 deaths that occurred in Blantyre (6); Lilongwe (5); Machinga (3) Karonga (2) and one each in Chiradzulu, Salima and Mwanza.
Of the new cases, Blantyre recorded the highest at 97 followed by Lilongwe (96) — thus prompting the Taskforce to delay the opening of next school term for no less than two weeks, and until further notice.
As containment measures were being set up, the new cases started surging with 488 on January 5 alone, accompanied by 18 related deaths; followed by 471 the next day with 13 deaths and a further 13 deaths on January 7 that recorded 425 new cases.
Sunday (January 8) had 497 new cases (17 deaths) followed by 498 (12 deaths) on Monday, January 9; 447 (15 deaths) on Tuesday, January 10; and 589 (17 deaths) on Wednesday.
The Taskforce’s co-chairpersons — Health Minister, Khumbize Kandodo Chiponda and Dr. Wilfred Chalamira Nkhoma — announced that the two respective city and district Councils would be working with the Ministries of Health, Education and Sanitation to “intensify initiatives to scale up coverage with safe water, adequate food hygiene, adequate sanitation and cholera vaccination in all hot spot areas — including among school age populations”.
“For all other learner in all health districts, the respective authorities should enhance compliance with recommended cholera control measures, including cholera vaccination for this that have not yet been vaccinated.”
Meanwhile, district health offices of Lilongwe and Blantyre set up oral cholera vaccination (OCV) centres at St. Chavala; Dzenza; Area 18; Kamuzu Central Hospital (KCH); African Bible College (ABC); Area 25; St. Kizito; Kawale; Biwi and Bwaila for the Capital City.
For Blantyre, they are at health centres of Bangwe; Chilomoni; Kachere; Limbe; Makhetha; Mbayani; Mtonda; South Lunzu and Zingwangwa — as the hotspot areas.
On January 3, the Taskforce announced that the Ministry of Health would line up a number of activities to be implemented — that include a thorough assessment of water and sanitation needs in schools in Blantyre and Lilongwe that include provision of safe water in the schools.
Schools whose piped water supply was disconnected due to outstanding bills were to be reconnected without any conditions and that the schools would also be provided with sanitary facilities and hand hygiene equipment in readiness to accommodating the learners.
The Ministries of Information and Civic Education were to intensify health education activities — using multiples channels including loud hailing, radio and TV while the Ministry of Health was to open more treatment centres especially where cases are coming from to minimize travel distances for patients, which are associated with risk of further spread of the disease.
It will also employ surge staff to support in the treatment centres and will activate security cluster to assist in ensuring compliance with preventive and containment measures — and the government is also finalizing the development and gazetting of preventive and containment measures for cholera under the Public Health Act.
Chiponda further announced that since risk factors on the cholera spread is use of unsafe water and poor sanitation, its line Ministry will — in the urban areas — provide free water connection, giving priorities in hotspot areas; water trucking using bowser in all hotspot areas and chlorine distribution.
All water bills have been suspended for all public kiosks and those with accumulated bills will be opened as well as expanding pipe networks — targeting low income and slums in Lilongwe and Blantyre cities while public toilets will be dislodged and disinfected.
In rural areas, measures include rehabilitation of boreholes; construction new water points in hotspot areas; campaign on sanitation, hygiene — as well as chlorine distribution, increase distribution of water dispensers in targeted hotspot areas and water quality assessment.
Meanwhile the Taskforce is appealing to the public, private corporate companies and organizations for support in the fight against the outbreak in the form of donations to cover various gaps currently being experienced in the prevention, control and management of the cases across the country.
They include medical supplies such as ringers lactate, giving sets, cholera beds, tents, examination and heavy duty gloves, gumboots, solar lamps.
Also for buckets with taps, aprons and soap, chlorine oral rehydration salts (ORS) and renovation/construction of sanitary facilities to support to schools to improve water and sanitation facilities as well as cash.
Those willing to support are requested to contact the Taskforce’s secretariat through national coordinator, Dr Bridon M’baya by email [email protected] or phone +265 (0) 995 883 117 or on the following address:
Covid-19 and Cholera Secretariat,
Office of the President and Cabinet,
Private Bag 301,
“The Presidential Taskforce welcomes any donations regardless of quantities and assures the general public that all donations received will be used for the intended purpose, and will be accounted for.
“The Secretariat will acknowledge all donations received through it,” says the Taskforce in its statement, adding “together we can reduce the spread of Cholera in our country”.