Ministry of Health (MoH) has confirmed that the cholera outbreak, first recorded on December 19 last year, has killed 20 people with cases rising to 634 in the five affected districts.
But MoH, despite the rise in the number of cases and the death toll, maintains that it is winning the battle against the outbreak.
Speaking in an interview on Monday, MoH spokesperson Adrian Chikumbe said 12 of the 20 deaths were recorded in villages due to lack of treatment whereas eight deaths have been recorded in treatment centres.
He said the battle was being won because, as of Sunday, only 23 people remained in treatment centres set up to treat cholera cases.
Chikumbe said new cases have declined almost in all affected districts—Karonga, Nkhata Bay, Machinga, Zomba and Phalombe—following interventions by government and its partners.
He said: “The figure of 634 is a cumulative record, that is cases that have been recorded since December 19 . The current situation is that we have 23 in health camps. There is a lot of progress, especially in Machinga where we used to record the highest [cases].
“The thing with cholera is that you will have a case today and tomorrow the situation will be different. Patients do not stay long in camp.”
But in the case of Nkhata Bay, the cases could be said to be on the rise as the district, at one point, managed to reduce them to zero.
Nkhata Bay District Hospital spokesperson Christopher Singini yesterday confirmed new cases in Nkhata Bay North. However, he said there were reports that five had been discharged and only one was in camp.
By December 31 2015, cholera cases cumulatively stood at 124 with four deaths, according to MoH records.
In an earlier interview, MoH director of preventive health services Storn Kabuluzi said the basic message people should know is that one can get cholera by either drinking water or eating food that is contaminated with cholera.
He said preventive measures are to drink or use safe clean water. He said water can be made clean by either boiling it or using chlorine such as Waterguard.
For many decades, Malawi has been struggling with cholera—both in the prevention as well as treatment. The country registered the highest cholera cases in 2008/09 where 3 250 cases and 82 deaths were recorded. However, since then, the trend has been declining.
World Health Organisation (WHO) says cholera can kill healthy adults within hours and individuals with lower immunity are at greater risk of death if infected by cholera. n