Malawi State Vice President on Friday opened a high-level emergency ministerial meeting on cholera epidemics and climate related public health emergencies in Lilongwe with a call to delegates to identify a lasting solution to the diseases.
The meeting has drawn participants from 14 countries, which include Angola, Botswana, Comoros, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Eswathini, Lesotho, Madagascar, Zimbabwe, South Africa and Namibia. Others are Tanzania, Zambia and Mozambique.
The high-level emergency ministerial meeting on cholera epidemics and climate related public health emergencies has been facilitated by the African Union Commission, the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF to discuss ways and means on how the 14 countries can defeat cholera and other climate-related health emergencies in their respective countries.
In his opening remarks, Chilima said the high level meeting had been convened at a right time when many African countries, especially in the Southern Africa, witnessing an outbreak of cholera against a global surge.
The Vice President stated that regionally, as of March 2023, there have been 127,168 reported Cholera cases resulting into close to 3,000 deaths across 12 African countries – all of which are represented at the meeting.
“As you can see, this is a regional crisis that requires concerted efforts. As Malawi Government, we are committed to ensure that we control and even eliminate diseases such as cholera. As we speak, with support from our partners we have put in place WHO approved strategies to control the disease. After many years of no cholera, Malawi detected the first cholera case on 28th February, 2022 following tropical storms Ana and Gombe in January, 2022,” he said.
The Malawi Vice President warned that diseases and public health emergencies know no borders; hence, the need for all the affected countries to work in collaboration if they are to defeat them.
He said it was pleasing therefore that the high-Level emergency meeting aims at giving an opportunity to the countries to strengthen and enhance collaboration and coordination for cross-border preparedness and response to the on-going cholera outbreak and other climate related health emergencies.
“Seeing that cholera outbreak continued throughout the dry season and onto the current rainy season and that the cases were increasing, our State President, His Excellency Dr. Lazarus McCarthy Chakwera, declared the cholera outbreak a national public health emergency on 5th December, 2022. The President further directed that oversight and coordination of the cholera control activities be added to the responsibilities of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19. Now this task Force is called the Presidential Task on COVID-19 and Cholera.
“Last month, on 13th February 2023, the President also launched a National Wide Cholera Control Campaign called “Tithetse Cholera m’Malawi” meaning “Let’s Eliminate Cholera in Malawi”. The President’s call and declaration have resulted in a remarkable increase in financial and technical assistance from both Government and our partners. Consequently, we are already seeing good progress on the ground. For example, from 700 new cases per day between January and February 2023, the cases have now gone down to about 350 cases per day and it is still going down. This is good progress but we must very quickly target zero deaths as no life is worthy a loss. You can, therefore, see that in our fight against Cholera, we have huge support at the highest Political leadership,” said Chilima.
He commended President of Zambia Hakainde Hichilema for the support and guidance he is providing through his role as the Cholera Control Champion.
Chilima also also acknowledged the support they are getting from the Director General of the World Health Organization, Dr. Tendros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, saying all the efforts, strides and success stories that Malawi is registering are mainly due to the concerted effort of government and assistance that it is receiving from partners.
“In particular, let me thank WHO and the Global Task Force on Cholera Control for the provision of the oral cholera vaccine that was crucial in containing the outbreak. However, besides the vaccine, the Ministry continues to put much emphasis on sanitation and hygiene as crucial elements to contain the disease. And as it is the case with endeavors like these, Malawi continues to encounter a number of social challenges bordering on religious beliefs, misinformation and disinformation. We appeal to our religious and traditional leaders to stand up to the occasion and help government to convince their subordinates to access Cholera treatment. This is a matter of life and death. Don’t listen those misguided characters who preach that drugs or medicines are satanic,” he said.