Declare ‘State of National Disaster’ over cholera, Nankhumwa tells President Chakwera

Kondwani Nankhumwa, Leader of Opposition in Parliament, has asked President Lazarus Chakwera to “immediately” declare a state of national disaster and call for help from various stakeholders inside and outside Malawi in order to arrest the unprecedented cholera outbreak, saying a stitch in time saves nine, “and it is better late than never”.
Nankhumwa said this in a press statement he issued on Sunday, January 1, 2023.
He says he is advocating for the President to declare a state of disaster so that other experts with technical know-how and equipment must come forward to help the country.
The opposition leader says it is also extremely imperative for the government to institute urgent policy measures to arrest the outbreak.
“Last Friday, December 30, 2022, I visited Limbe and Makhetha dispensaries, which are some of the dispensaries in the City of Blantyre, which the Blantyre District Health Office (DHO) has turned into cholera treatment facilities in a bid to fight the cholera outbreak in the city.
“In Blantyre alone, there have been over 82 deaths in the last 72 hours out of 1,833 cases. I have also been informed that a nurse has died in Ntcheu after contracting the disease in the line of duty.
“I wish to unequivocally state that we are facing a crisis. I am told that the last time this country faced such a crisis was over 10 years ago. Something needs to be done more than what is currently being done to fight this outbreak,” reads the statement in part.
According to Nankhumwa, hospitals have been overwhelmed by a deluge of patients against their clear lack of capacity. There is an acute lack of medicine and personnel to cope with the burgeoning situation, and if nothing is done in the next few days, the situation will most likely explode.
“I was informed that guardians were sleeping in the open for four to five days due to the lack of shelters. I have seen makeshift tents operating as morgues where dead bodies are being left for hours and days due to the lack of personnel to do the necessary work.
“Ordinarily, the statistics above should have been enough to make the national leadership stand up and take a closer look. But it appears the government continues to sit on its laurels and snoring soundly.
“Cholera is a treatable disease but it kills, and it kills fast.
“It is in that regard that I would like to urge the government, through the Ministry of Health, to immediately wake up from its slumber and move with speed. This is a crisis, and it is important that we call it by its rightful name,” continues the statement.
Nankhumwa also says the cholera outbreak emanates from unhygienic practices in the communities and that there is need to solve the problem from the source.
He notes that there are water kiosks in most townships in the major cities, which were disconnected by Water Boards a long time ago due to non-payment of bills, thereby forcing people to draw water from unhygienic sources. Where kiosks are operational, some families cannot afford the cost of the water, he says.
Nankhumwa says this is one of the major contributing factors to the current rapid spread of cholera.
“I would like to urge the government to find a quick solution to this problem. One such solution could even be a temporary one like subsidizing the cost of water to communities during this outbreak to stop people from drawing water from unhygienic sources.
“Fellow Malawians, It is also important to note that a significant percentage of Malawians is currently facing an acute hunger situation where they, especially children, are forced to eat food, which is not properly cooked or from questionable sources, without proper checks, just to have something in their stomachs. This hunger situation is also seriously contributing to the serious cholera outbreak.
“On this point, I wish to urge the government to consider targeted food distributions to the ultra poor because this outbreak plus hunger is a double-whammy that could soon become a national tragedy,” says Nankhumwa who also serves as Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Vice President for the Southern Region.

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