Ministry of Health (MoH) says it is on high alert and is closely monitoring the Ebola situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where 17 people died from the viral disease this week.
It is believed that a new ninth Ebola outbreak sprung up two weeks ago in the DRC, where Malawi has a contingent of 850 soldiers on United Nations peacekeeping mission.
MoH spokesperson Joshua Malango, responding to an e-mailed questionnaire yesterday, said the ministry is aware of the outbreak and that it will do all it can to prevent it from spreading into the country.
He said: “In collaboration with the World Health Organisation [WHO], we are monitoring the situation in the DRC. If it becomes necessary to alert the people of Malawi, we will do so without causing any unnecessary anxiety.”
Malango said MoH has the capacity to detect and treat the disease if it spreads into the country, explaining that the needed health services are available at all major border points where immigrants, including refugees, shall be screened for Ebola and other diseases.
He said Malawi was successful in the fight against Ebola in 2016 when the disease did not spread into the country from those nations which were affected.
But some sources who recently travelled abroad observed that Malawi stopped screening immigrants at airports and road border posts after WHO pronounced African nations free from Ebola in 2016.
While commending the initiative government took to fight the spread of Ebola into the country in 2016, Malawi Health Equity Network (Mhen) executive director George Jobe proposed that government should immediately begin conducting awareness campaigns to ensure an efficient fight against the pandemic.
In his comment on the trend of foreign immigrants from the Ebola- stricken countries, United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) communications officer Rumbani Msiska said the country receives 500 refugees from DRC every month.
He said currently there were 34 053 refugees at Dzaleka Refugee Camp out of whom 20 299 are from the DRC.
Malawi Defence Force (MDF) spokesperson Paul Chiphwanya could not answer calls for his comment on the safety of the 850 soldiers deployed in Goma City, north DRC.
But a soldier who went for peace-keeping in the country in 2016 levelled down fears that MDF troops may be affected by the outbreak, saying they are not within the areas where the disease is rampant and that the United Nations ensures that they get quality healthcare.
Internet sources reveal that the disease is now rampant in Bikoro City, north west of the DRC, which is far from where MDF soldiers are camped for peacekeeping errands.
Ebola is believed to be spread over long distances by bats, which can host the virus without dying, and they infect other animals with which they share trees, such as monkeys.
The Ebola virus was first discovered in 1976 near the Ebola River in DRC. n