I think I will not be wrong to conclude that the Ministry of Health is now ‘deaf’. Why should we still be talking about a cholera epidemic (now 1 540 cases) up to this time? Several articles have been written on this column warning this ministry on this year’s cholera outbreak, with several measures proposed.
It’s surprising to be reading in today’s The Nation (May 25 2016) in which the Ministry’s is talking of routine measures in controlling every cholera epidemic. And their directors talk of asking zimbowera people to move away from Lake Chilwa to upland. What does the Public Health Act, paragraphs 29 and 30 say? Just destroy their camps.
An article advising the Ministry on the same was published on this column on January 10 2016. Some excerpts are repeated for the sake of the Ministry was that time ‘deaf’.
Tame ‘Zimbowera’ guys in Machinga, Zomba now
In last week’s issue, I said it clearly that the recently declared outbreak of cholera in Machinga and Zomba districts was supposed to be a scare to the Ministry of Health and its staff. I explained that there were several factors that led me to make that hypothesis.
Firstly, I talked about the fact that Zomba and Machinga being potential sources of the outbreak for so many years and the fact that this has been common knowledge should have made the Ministry more prepared about this.
Secondly, I said the government does not have enough resources. And the story of scarcity of resources in the Ministry of Health is also common knowledge.
Now, this was a hypothesis at the time I was writing that piece. However, literally, what I was expecting has really happened, if reports we are reading in the newspapers are anything to go by.
In the January 7 issue of The Nation, Mercy Malikwa reported that as of January 6 2015, the Ministry of Health had registered 309 cases from the 19 registered around two weeks earlier, with 12 deaths.
The Ministry of Health provided reasons for the increase in cases, especially in Machinga. The reasons, as explained last week, are obvious and common knowledge. First and foremost, Lake Chilwa is a repository of Vibrio cholerae, bacteria which causes cholera. It was, therefore, surprising to hear, according to newspaper reports, that the Ministry of Health believed the onset of the outbreak and increase in cases is because of unhygienic practices by the zimbowera (floating temporary houses deep in the lake) guys while high death rate is due to long time taken in transferring patients to treatment centres.
Like I said last week and today above, the issue of combined risks due to vibrios in Lake Chilwa and life style of the zimbowera people has been common knowledge for many years. Why should we still be letting numbers increase exponentially and even Case Fatality Rate from cholera increase beyond WHO standards of less than one percent? Why should we blame the onset of the outbreak and its exponential increase on lifestyles yet the role of the Ministry of Health in public health is to tame such life styles and prevent and control the development and spread of the disease?
Does it mean the whole government, through the Ministry of Health, is being failed by the zimbowera people and their unhygienic lifestyles? Yet we know that government does not have enough resources. It’s high time we tamed these zimbowera guys once and for all. Why allow them to take the country to ransom? Otherwise, the Ministry of Health should be more scared of this year’s cholera outbreak. n