Malawi is emerging victorious in its battle against the deadliest cholera outbreak in the country's history, which has killed nearly 2,000 people since its onset in March of last year. Health authorities say the country has seen a steady decline in the death rate, with no new cases or hospitalizations for the past two weeks.
A cholera report, which Malawi's health ministry released Sunday, shows that the outbreak has been fully controlled in 21 districts. These include Chitipa, Dowa, Kasungu, Likoma, Mzimba South, Mzimba North, Mwanza, Nkhata Bay, Ntchisi, Phalombe and Lilongwe, which reported most of the cases.
Minister of Health Khumbize Kandodo Chiponda said in a statement that a few areas are still reporting cases. These areas include Balaka, Blantyre, Chikwawa, Machinga, Nsanje, Ntcheu, Salima and Zomba.
George Mbotwa, spokesperson of the health office in Nsanje district, said the district is recording an average of one or two cases per day, but that number is lower than the average of about 30 daily cases during the peak of the outbreak.
"We have continued to record cases because about 50 percent of Nsanje is bordered by Mozambique. And these cases are coming from across the borders," he said. "We still have some local transmission but very minimal. And this is coming in because the adoption of hygiene behavior has been very slow."
Mbotwa said the cross-border cases largely happen because most Mozambican nationals stay away from their country's health facilities and seek medical assistance at Malawian hospitals.
He said, however, that efforts are being made to contain the cross-border cholera infections.
"We have done coordination meetings with Mozambican officials recently. ... That's the only activity that we have done but we find it very important because we are able to share prevention measures that we are implementing as countries," Mbotwa said.
Malawi registered the first cholera case in March of last year.
Statistics from the Public Health Institute of Malawi show that the country has recorded 58,870 cumulative confirmed cases and 1,761 deaths.
Malawi, however, has now seen a steady decline in the death rate, with no new cases or hospitalizations in most districts for the past two weeks.
Health authorities attribute the success story to various anti-cholera interventions, including the nationwide vaccination campaign the government and World Health Organization rolled out in May of last year.
Also this past February, President Lazarus Chakwera launched a national campaign against cholera which saw authorities ban the sale of already cooked foods in open places.
Health experts, however, have warned Malawians against relaxing the prevention measures.
"We should remember that we have had cholera cases throughout dry season. Which should be a reason that we can have cholera cases any time not only during the rainy season. Therefore, we encourage Malawians to continue observing prevention measures," said George Jobe, executive director for the Malawi Health Equity Network.
Cholera is an acute diarrheal infection caused by ingesting food or water contaminated with bacteria. The disease affects both children and adults and, if untreated, can kill within hours.
The health ministry has advised people with signs and symptoms of cholera to promptly go to the nearest treatment unit.