Malawi: Govt Closes Schools As Cholera Outbreak Spreads

The authorities in Malawi have suspended primary and secondary schools in two major cities following a cholera outbreak that has killed hundreds of people.

Schools in the capital, Lilongwe, and the commercial hub, Blantyre, will remain closed for at least two more weeks after the December festive holidays.

Meanwhile, Doctors without Borders, also known as Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), is increasing its medical support and assembling extra local and international experts to fight the raging outbreak.

MSF Emergency Response Coordinator, Yahya Kalilah, told Malawi local media that it is vital that the public receives information on the prevention of cholera, seeking medical help early, and increasing the uptake of the oral vaccine.

Cholera is an infectious disease among humans characterised by acute diarrheal symptoms. It is regarded as an infectious disease of poverty due to its prevalence in regions that are low-resourced with poor sanitary conditions.

With confirmed cases now at 21,522 and 716 deaths so far, Malawi is on the brink of the worst cholera outbreak since the first devastating outbreak in 1998 due to hunger.

With many Malawians in rural areas depending on uncovered wells for their drinking water, the situation could be dire during this rainy season.

The outbreak has spread to nearly all of Malawi’s 28 districts.

The Africa Centres for Disease Control says it is concerned about the rise in cholera deaths in Malawi, which it attributes to patients not getting treatment on time.

Eight female students at Ntcheu Secondary School have tested positive for cholera, education authorities in the district have confirmed.

The district’s director of education, youth, and sports, Sophia Rosemary Mthiko, said on Tuesday that so far, six of the affected students have been discharged while two are still in hospital.

In the midst of the outbreak, some districts in the central region, especially in Kasungu, have no supplies of the vaccine. The Kasungu District Health Office spokesperson, Catherine Yoweli, has confirmed the crisis.

She says the offices are currently outsourcing the vaccine from other districts and people will be able to access the vaccine soon.

“Only about 243,000 people in Kasungu were vaccinated against Cholera out of about a million people in the district,” she said.

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