Deborah washes utensils outside her home, next to a public water point where 40 litres of water costs around 4USD, in Kaliyeka township in Lilongwe, on Feb 22, 2023 in an area where access to clean drinking water are scarce. The deadliest cholera outbreak in Malawi's history has killed at least 1,210 people, while vaccines remain scarce and several other African nations report outbreaks.
The southern African nation has been battling its worst cholera outbreak on record, with nearly 37,000 cases reported since March 2022. (PHOTO / AFP)
LILONGWE – The World Health Organization (WHO) has described Malawi's cholera outbreak as the largest in Africa as the country has so far contributed nearly 40 percent of total cases recorded in 12 countries across the continent.
WHO Regional Health Security Advisor Ambrose Talisuna said this during his presentation in Lilongwe, Malawi, at a high-level meeting on Thursday of technocrats from 14 African countries that are affected by, or at risk of being affected by, cholera.
Out of 129,295 cases of cholera recorded in 12 countries in Africa as of March 5, Malawi had recorded 51,287 cases, the highest, representing nearly 40 percent of the total cumulative number of cases, a World Health Origanization official said
The gathering is a precursor to a high-level meeting of ministers from these countries scheduled for Friday in Lilongwe where participants will discuss ways to contain cholera and other challenges that come with climate change on the continent.
According to Talisuna, out of 129,295 cases of cholera recorded in 12 countries in Africa as of March 5, Malawi had recorded 51,287 cases, the highest, representing nearly 40 percent of the total cumulative number of cases.
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He said 3,016 deaths had been recorded in the 12 countries as of March 5 and that out of those, 1,605 deaths, or 53.2 percent, were recorded in Malawi.
"The outbreak that we are seeing in Malawi is probably the largest and this is related to issues around climate change and cross-border movement," Talisuna said in an interview with journalists after his presentation.
"Issues about cross-border movements need surveillance, but also harmonizing the interventions with the countries in SADC," he said, referring to the Southern African Development Community.
Talisuna urged the ministers meeting Friday to renew their 2018 Regional Framework for Africa commitment to eliminating cholera epidemics by 2030, saying the continent is "lagging behind."
Malawian Minister of Health Khumbize Kandodo Chiponda concurred with Talisuna, but expressed hope, saying the implementation of the Tithetse Kolera (Let's End Cholera) Campaign, which President Lazarus Chakwera rolled out on Feb 13, has seen the number of cholera cases and deaths dropping.
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Chiponda said her ministry, together with all stakeholders, is taking the cholera campaign door to door and that they will cover all the 49,000 villages that the country has.
The meeting of ministers Friday will be officially opened by Malawi Vice President Saulos Chilima. Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema, who is the current Cholera Elimination Champion, is expected to address the meeting via a video link.