Leprosy, a disease older than the Bible, is back in Malawi and has hit seven districts.
Leonard Mawaya, program manager for the Department of Leprosy and Skin Diseases at the Ministry of Health, said the disease was restricted to Balaka in 2015 but has now spread to Nkhotakotakota, Phalombe, Mangochi, Mzimba, Salima and Machinga.
“As government, we are doing all we can to contain the disease but we are now overwhelmed, we need assistance from our development partners,” said Mawaya who is responsible for leprosy in the ministry of Heath.
He attributes the resurgence to complacency. He said people thought the disease was gone and funding was cut.
“Even the program’s office has got one vehicle catering for the whole country. So for us to do supervision from North down to South becomes very difficult. And for the rest of our officers, only one or two have got motor bicycles while the rest have to borrow,” Mawaya said.
Leprosy is far from the biblical plague it once was. The skin disease is caused by bacteria. It is infectious, transmitted via sneezing and coughing, but it is now treatable. The WHO recommends a multi-drug regimen that makes patients unable to transmit the infection after just one dose.
Mawaya said over 500 people are affected by the disease in the seven districts.
Without treatment, leprosy can be disfiguring and lead to complications like loss of feeling, permanent nerve damage and muscle weakness.
Skin disease specialists met recently in Malawi. They said leprosy escalation can be contained within two years but to do so, an additional $16,000 in funding per month is needed.
In Neno, typhoid fever has hit the district, three years after it killed over 40 people as hospital officials failed to diognise it because it had come with new features.
Heallth officials in the district say close to 200 people are suffering from the disease.
The diseases come at a time when the government is battling chokera, a fast killing water borne disease that hss so far claimed nine lives in Machinga and hass now been diagnised in Nkhata Bay.
Ministry of Health officials say cholera has killed nine people since December 19, 2015 and 191 people suffurred from the disease.
Adrian Chikumbe, spokesman for the ministry of Health says the disease is spreading fast in areas surrounding Lake Chirwa.
He said the government, with the help of the World Health Organisation and Unicef are working together to contain the situation.
This announcement comes barely a day after 12 people have been admitted to Nkhata Bay District Hospital for cholera, the first case in the north in this rainy season. This has raised fears that there can be an outbreak in Mzuzu gets most of its raw food, mostly fruits.
A 65 year old man has reportedly died in Karonga while other four are under medical attention.
Karonga Environmental Health Officer Lewis Tukula said the incident was reported on 30th December 2015 at Kaporo rural health center where the four are admitted.
According to Tukula, despite the outbreak the district have no medical suppliers to curb cholera suspects.—Additional reporting by Tiwonge Kumwenda, Nyasa TimesFollow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :