The cholera outbreak, initially limited to the southern part of the country, has now spread to Malawi’s northern and central regions. To date, 1,483 cases and 58 deaths have been recorded with the case fatality rate at 3.9 per cent. This is of serious concern as cases continue to rise outside the traditional hotspot districts, affecting lakeshore communities and crowded, urban areas with insufficient water and sanitation facilities.
In response to this evolving situation, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have stepped up their ongoing activities to support the Government of Malawi in containing and preventing the spread of this preventable disease in more districts.
Despite the continuing efforts in the national cholera outbreak response, and the need to intensify efforts, significant gaps exist. This includes the urgent need to strengthen surveillance system for early detection and management; increase quality case management at cholera treatment units; provide critical supplies required to manage cholera cases and for water treatment, personal hygiene and water storage at the household level; increase timely community engagement and dissemination of communications around cholera prevention, and positive hygiene practices.
UNICEF and WHO are, therefore, appealing to partners and donors for additional funds and support to address these challenges and enable them to better support the Government in its efforts to contain the outbreak.
“Every death from cholera is preventable with the tools we have today. WHO will continue to support the Ministry of Health in implementing immediate and long-term cholera control, response and preventive measures. The additional support will help ensure that lives continue to be saved, and a resilient health system is maintained during and beyond the current outbreak,” said WHO Country Representative Dr Neema Rusibamayila Kimambo.
“The impact of the larger outbreak will overwhelm the already over-burdened public health services and health-care delivery systems in the country, so we must act now. The good news is that we know the solutions. We are on the ground providing humanitarian assistance in the affected districts, but we need more support to further scale up our response. This will make a big difference to thousands of children and their families at risk of contracting this preventable disease. UNICEF remains fully committed to working closely with the government and partners in our collective response to the outbreak,” said UNICEF Malawi Representative Rudolf Schwenk.
Since the declaration of a cholera outbreak in March 2022, UNICEF and WHO have been working closely with the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Water and Sanitation, district authorities, health centres, partners and community members in developing a response plan and coordinating the response ensuring the delivery of essential supplies and services to the families and communities in cholera-affected districts in Malawi.