In a bid to provide a conducive medical environment to patients suffering from infectious diseases such as cholera, smallpox, Tuberculosis (TB) and Typhoid fever, the Ministry of Health with funding from the World Bank has constructed six Infectious Disease Isolation Centers in selected districts of the country.
Construction works for the centers in border districts of Karonga, Mchinji, Mwanza and airport districts of Blantyre, Lilongwe and Mzuzu, were part of a response to an Ebola outbreak in the three Western African countries of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Sierra Leone and Liberia in 2014.
Globally, a total of 28 638 cases were reported in that year, resulting in 11 316 deaths.
Speaking during the opening ceremony of one of the centres at Kameza in Blantyre, Minister of Health and Population Atupele Muluzi, said the opening of the centers signifies that Malawi is prepared for the ever-present threat of Ebola and other serious diseases.
He said the Ministry together with its partners developed an Ebola Virus Disease Preparedness and Response Plan in October 2014 following World Health Organisation (WHO)’s declaration of the outbreak as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) in August 2014.
According to Muluzi, the centers have been constructed to the tune of $8 million, from which $7 million US dollars has been provided by the World Bank and the remainder has come from the Malawi Government and other development partners.
Said Muluzi: “The outcome of this investment has also allowed us to invest into our human resource capacity and our health management systems such that we are better placed to deal with a similar scale threat.”
The investment also include; procurement and distribution of Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs), 20 utility vehicles, including an audio visual van for public engagement and education, 15 ambulances, IT and medical equipment.
It also involved the training of 1709 health workers, strengthening of capacity to screen for Ebola and diseases of a similar nature at six land borders and two international airports together with training of 80 border officers.
Muluzi further said the recent outbreak in the northern Kivu province of the DRC with 57 cases,- 30 confirmed and 27 suspected including 41 fatalities is a call for Malawi to remain vigilant at all times. The outbreak was declared by WHO on August 1, 2018.
“We are screening travelers at both land borders and international airports so I feel confident that we are doing what we can to safeguard the public at this stage.
In collaboration with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Karonga and Dowa District Assemblies are now screening refugees coming from DRC. We are then following up these checks when they arrive and settle at Dzaleka Refugee Camp in Dowa. We are also working with the Malawi Defence Force (MDF) to ensure that our soldiers who have been deployed to the UN Peace Keeping mission in DRC are regularly screened for Ebola, upon their return,” he added.
For her part, Health and Nutrition Specialist for World Bank, Malawi, Julita Manda, said the organisation was concerned at the way patients suffering from various infectious diseases that required isolation were being accommodated.
She pledged that the bank will continue supporting the health sector in Malawi to ensure sustainability of quality health services.
Speaking on behalf of the six district Commissioners, DC for Blantyre Bennet Nkasala pledged to look after the facility and provide necessary support so that it serves its intended propose.