Malawi's health ministry reports 52 people have died from a cholera outbreak, and that more than 1,000 cases have been reported since November.
Health Secretary Chris Kang'ombe told reporters Thursday the disease began spreading through slums in the capital, Lilongwe, at the beginning of the rainy season. He blames poor sanitation and a shortage of clean water for the outbreak.
At least 32 of the deaths have occurred in the capital.
Kang'ombe says the government is providing water treatment chemicals and taking other measures to stop the spread of the disease.
Nearby Zimbabwe is suffering from a cholera epidemic that has killed more than 3,000 people. The French news agency AFP cites officials with the World Health Organization as saying the two outbreaks are not related.
Cholera causes acute diarrhea caused by a bacterial infection of the intestine.
In severe cases, rapid loss of body fluids leads to dehydration and shock. Without treatment, in these cases, death can occur within hours.
A person usually gets cholera by drinking water or eating food contaminated with the cholera bacterium. In an epidemic, the source of the contamination is usually the feces of an infected person.
The disease can spread rapidly in areas with inadequate treatment of sewage and drinking water.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP