Ministry of Health (MoH) says there is no Ebola case in the country and has described as false reports suggesting an outbreak in Malawi or any of its neighbours.
MoH spokesperson Joshua Malango was responding to an inquiry following a notice making rounds on social media purportedly from the United Nations (UN) warning its staff in Tete, Niassa and Zambezia in Mozambique of an outbreak of Ebola in Malawi, especially in Blantyre and Lilongwe. The report suggested that Malawi was prone because it was receiving displaced persons from Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and that some people, including Malawi Defence Force (MDF) soldiers, are working in the Ebola-prone areas.
He said there has not been any travel restrictions between Malawi and its immediate neighbours.
“The Ministry of Health wishes to update the nation that there are no cases of Ebola outbreak in Malawi. We will continue updating the nation whenever it is necessary to do so and would like to plead with all Malawians to confirm any information related to public health before raising unnecessary alarm,” said Malango.
He said government, with support from the World Bank, is strengthening MoH capacity in terms of disease surveillance and outbreak response. As part of the initiative, four thermo body scanners have been installed at both Chileka and Kamuzu international airports for surveillance of the disease.
Said Malango: “In addition to these scanners, the ministry has also installed electronic disease surveillance system in 59 health facilities [all district and central hospitals and some busy health centres].
“We have also constructed and made functional six isolation centres for management of highly infectious diseases such as Ebola—one each in Karonga, Mzuzu, Mchinji, Dedza, Mwanza and Blantyre.”
He also said MoH has managed to procure and install six medical incinerators (ovens), one each in all six isolation centres, procured personal protective equipment (PPEs) for the management of highly infectious diseases, laboratory equipment and medical supplies for clinical management of Ebola.
The United Kingdom Department for International Development (DfID) through Unicef has also provided Malawi with £478 000 (K394 763 470) to help with Ebola prevention and preparedness programmes. The funds will be used to train 500 healthcare workers in border districts and ports of entry, including Dowa where there is Dzaleka Refugee Camp, Lilongwe and Blantyre districts.
The DfID statement said Ebola, which was previously confined to one area in DRC, has now spread to the city of Goma which has a population of two million people and lies on the border between DRC and Rwanda, thereby putting neighbouring countries and the southern Africa region at potential risk.
“In addition, MDF soldiers are presently stationed in the DRC, including in Beni, which is the worst affected area,” reads the statement in part.
But in an interview yesterday, MDF spokesperson Paul Chiphwanya said there was no cause for worry because no Ebola case has been reported among MDF troops in DRC.
He said: “There is no reported cases yet on our soldiers in DRC.”
The first recorded Ebola outbreak happened simultaneously in Sudan and former Zaire in 1976 near and around the settlements of River Ebola, where the illness derived its name from. It is transmitted through direct contact with secretions of an infected person or dead bodies.
The largest Ebola outbreak happened between 2013 and 2016 in West Africa where it affected large urban areas for the first time. Since then trends have shown that Ebola can strike urban areas, and densely populated slum areas with poor hygiene and sanitation conditions. By July 22 this year, 1 746 people have died out of the 2 597 Ebola cases recorded in the DRC since May 2018, according to World Health Organisation (WHO).