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January 30, 2013

Malawi Moves to Make Rainy Season Cholera-Free

by Lameck Masina

Cholera is often spread by eating food contaminated by germs from human waste.  Symptoms of the disease include diarrhea, vomiting and dehydration.  Those who do not have access to a hospital or clinic for rehydration therapy may die.

Statistics from the Health Ministry show that three years ago,  the water-borne disease killed 24 out of 2,000 people infected.  

A year later, the number dropped to 60 cases and 4 deaths.

This year, health authorities want the number to be zero.

Henry Chimbali, the spokesperson for the ministry., says “The first thing is to provide [free] safe and treated water to people so they can use it in their homes by distributing chlorine and also promoting [a sodium hypochlorite solution called] Water Guard especially in areas where access to safe water is limited.”

Chimbali says the ministry has intensified community education on the construction and utilization of toilets to avoid the unsafe disposal of human waste which may help spread cholera-causing germs.

He says the country is likely to win the battle based on records showing no districts in the northern and southern regions have had any cholera in the past years.  

Harold Kabuluzi, a spokesperson for Dedza District Hospital in Malawi’s central region, "“We do intensify health education all over the districts, and we distribute cholera materials in time like chlorine and other things to all the people [in the district]”.

Chimbali says to win the fight at the national level the government is working with various partners including international NGOs and the media. 

“Fearing there could be some shortfalls in medical supplies, " he explained, "we have different partners including UNICEF have  shops that are supported by USAID.  They have been in forefront in the provision of some cholera supplies. The media must be oriented so that they understand what cholera is all about. [Next, they must educate the public about how to prevent the disease.]”

So far, there have been no outbreaks this rainy season -- giving hope that the national wide fight against cholera will be won.

Listen to report on anti-cholera efforts in Malawi