Malawians could be sitting on a time bomb following a cholera outbreak in neighbouring Tanzania where many traders buy goods for sale.
Tanzania has been grappling with the disease linked with poor sanitation and hygiene since July when it hit Mara Region.
Now Malawians are at the risk of dying of the fast-killing infection as it has spread to the towns of Kyela and Dar es Salaam where the majority of local traders order their merchandise.
In September, Tanzania’s Ministry of Health and Social Welfare informed the World Health Organisation (WHO) of the public health scare, the United Nations agency reports.
“WHO doesn’t recommend any travel or trade restrictions to Tanzania based on the current information available,” a WHO statement reads.
However, Malawians must tread with caution following the death of a Standard Four pupil and hospitalisation of six others in Kyela, about 20 kilometres from Songwe Border.
During a visit to the town in Mbeya Region on Thursday, The Nation found most restaurants closed as government has banned sale of food and fruits in markets and other unauthorised places.
Karonga may be at a high risk of catching the infection due to its proximity to Kyela and constant trade links with Tanzania, but the outbreak could lead to a nationwide health crisis as the border district is split by the country’s longest road, M1, which is a well known corridor of infections.
In an interview, Minister of Health Peter Kumpalume said: “Following similar reports from Mozambique, I have asked all district health officers to tell me how prepared they are for a cholera outbreak.”
Mwanza district health office (DHO) reportedly indicated they have enough medical kits to cope for three months while Lilongwe has stocks that can only last a month, Kumpalume explained.
In an interview, Karonga district environmental officer Elias Phiri said they have intensified health education and disease surveillance at Songwe Border and surrounding areas.
Cholera is a predictable and preventable disease transmitted through poor sanitation and hygiene as well as poor preparedness.
The country spends nearly K8.8 billion (about $14million) tackling effects of poor hygiene, the World Bank reported last year. n