17 August 2018
Breaking News

PS for Health Dr. Dan Namarika speaks on Cholera

Written by  Mphatso Nkuonera
A Doctor treats a young patient suffering from cholera at a camp for people suffering from cholera - File Photo A Doctor treats a young patient suffering from cholera at a camp for people suffering from cholera - File Photo

Malawi has been hit by the Cholera outbreak that has claimed some lives. A Malawi News Agency (Mana) reporter, Mphatso Lastone Nkuonera (MN) caught up with the Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Health and Population Services, DR DAN NAMARIKA (DN) to explain the situation.

What is the current state of affairs as regards the cholera outbreak?

So far, 338 cases have been recorded in nine districts of Karonga, Nkhata Bay, Kasungu, Lilongwe, Salima, Dowa, Mulanje, Chikwawa and Nsanje. A majority of cases are from Karonga (218) and Lilongwe (71).

MN: What are the main challenges your ministry is facing in the fight against this outbreak?

DN: Challenges include:

  • Supplies such as Chlorine, intravenous fluids, tents, financial support for transport and staff support.
  • Traditional beliefs and other practices where in some cases, people would still go to unprotected water sources (despite safe water sources being available e.g. saying borehole water is salty as compared to lake water) and in other cases thinking that they have been bewitched.
  • Sometimes it is not easy to differentiate some causes of diarrhea from cholera.

 

MN: What strides have been made so far since the outbreak was registered in the country?

DN:

  • Community awareness led by the Hon Minister of Health himself, Hon Atupele Muluzi supported through various media platforms such as radio, churches, schools, TV and many other gatherings.
  • Many stakeholders have been involved in the fight from other ministries and departments, including the Department of Disaster Preparedness, Development partners, NGOs, the media, the private sector and others.
  • Both traditional and religious leaders have also been engaged.
  • Water treatment initiatives at different water sources.

 

MN: Cholera is a hygiene-related disease, what initiatives has your ministry put forward to prevent the disease at household level?

DN: The Ministry of Health, working with other partners, has intensified the campaign on “Open Defecation Free Areas.” This is a Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Program where communities are encouraged and supported to make sure that they construct and use toilets. The program is championed by traditional leaders and it is pleasing that some districts, such as Balaka, have achieved the “ODF status” for the entire district.

MN: What are the major challenges that you are facing in the fight against cholera and what are you doing to address them?

DN:

  • Still getting cholera cases in some areas – we are still doing sensitizations and public awareness campaigns and case management. In some areas, respective district councils have utilized their by-laws to help control the disease. We are yet to receive vaccines from our partners.
  • Still need for more supplies to fight the outbreak – Treasury has given us additional financial resources and we are still engaging other stakeholders.

MN: How should the citizenry assist your ministry in the fight against cholera now and possibly, in future?

DN:

  • More than 50 per cent of diseases that people present to hospitals are preventable in simple ways of sanitation and hygiene. Hand washing (with soap) and food hygiene would make a whole difference in disease burden. Boiling water before drinking should be the order, and where chlorine has been provided, it must be used in drinking water.
  • Some of our traditional practices such as eating in communal settings such as weddings, funerals etc should be minimized, or stopped during the disease outbreak.

MN: Share any other relevant information that you wish Malawians to know about issues of cholera or other health issues that matter.

DN:

  • Cholera is still there, especially now during the rainy season. However, it is very preventable by following simple hygiene practices.
  • The government (under the leadership of State President and Honourable Minister) with other stakeholders is very committed to contain the cholera outbreak.
  • At the same time, the government would like to thank all Malawians and its partners for good working relationship and support that they have rendered in the fight against the cholera outbreak.