Malawi launches new appeal for cholera vaccine

Malawi launches new appeal for cholera vaccine
Malawi launches new appeal for cholera vaccine
Blantyre, Malawi —

Malawi has appealed for more than 7 million additional doses of cholera vaccine from the World Health Organization as it struggles to control a record outbreak of the bacterial disease.

The WHO donated nearly 3 million doses of the vaccine to Malawi in November, but these quickly ran out. Since March last year, nearly 30,000 people have been infected and nearly 1,000 have died.

The call for more doses of cholera comes as Malawi continues to record an increase in cases which have now affected all of its 29 districts.

Health ministry spokesman Adrian Chikumbe said talks with the WHO were ongoing.

“We are expecting a shipment of 7.6 million doses for 17 districts, but we will also take into account districts that are badly affected by the current outbreak,” Chikumbe said.

A medical worker holds the oral cholera vaccine which is now lacking in Malawi.

The Ministry of Health said on Tuesday there was no indication that Malawi would receive the vaccine anytime soon, as many other countries are also lobbying the WHO over the same issue.

The World Health Organization first supported Malawi with 3.9 million doses of oral cholera vaccine last May, after the outbreak was reported in March.

The country received another shipment of 2.9 million doses in November through WHO and the UN children’s agency UNICEF.

Maziko Matemba, Malawi’s community health ambassador, said the vaccine shortage shows a change in attitude towards vaccines.

“We had a similar situation with COVID-19 where we had low uptake as we saw more people getting sick and more people dying,” Matemba said. “So hopefully the WHO and the government of Malawi will take advantage of the fact that we now have high uptake, people are asking for the vaccine. Some of us have even received calls where people want access to the vaccine. So I hope this time we will use the request.

Cholera is an acute diarrheal disease that can kill within hours if left untreated.

Guardians and relatives of the sick are given chlorine to apply to the water as a preventive measure against cholera.

Malawi is currently grappling with its worst cholera outbreak in a decade, largely blamed on poor sanitation and hygiene.
Hard-hit districts include Malawi’s capital, Lilongwe, and Blantyre Mall

Wongani Mbale, health promotion officer for Blantyre district health office, said the main cause of cholera is the use of unsafe water.

“[In] Blantyre, the population is increasing due to urbanization so the water source is so scarce that people resort to unsanitary water sources,” Mbale said.

The government of Malawi is reconnecting water kiosks in hard hit areas. They had been disconnected due to unpaid water bills.

As the country awaits a new supply of cholera vaccine, health authorities have stepped up campaigns on preventive measures, such as eating boiled food, washing hands with soap before eating and using the toilet.

. Malawi launches appeal cholera vaccine

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