The Ministry of Health in conjunction with the World Health Organization (WHO), United Nations (UNICEF), Centre for Disease Control (CDC) and partners of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative on Wednesday launched an emergency response to the poliomyelitis outbreak in Malawi.
The response will include disease surveillance across Malawi and large-scale polio immunization campaigns.
Speaking at a press conference in Lilongwe, Deputy Minister of Health, Enock Phale, said the response follows a study, which showed that the single poliovirus type 1 case detected in a Lilongwe-based female child was a result of failure by the parents to vaccinate the child against the disease.
Phale said the isolated case is enough to declare it a Public Health Emergency despite it being believed that it is an imported case.
“We will roll out a robust system to make sure we contain it’s spread. We will do whatever we can to make sure we break the infectious cycle. One way will be by bringing public awareness campaigns,” he said.
The Deputy Minister said the campaign will target the total population of children under the age of five in Malawi, which is over two million vaccinations.
“We have emergency committees to seal out loopholes that can lead to further spread of poliomyelitis in the country. It is devastating to have a case after 30 years of no Poliomyelitis case. We are putting in place some communication strategy because the public needs to know and also some resource mobilization programs,” said Phale.
WHO Representative in Malawi, Dr Janet Kayita, advised the Malawi Government to intensify surveillance in order to understand the reality on the ground and strengthen the immunisation system to make sure children are able to access recommended vaccinations including the Polio vaccine.
“There should be a special immunization targeting the children affected by Tropical Ana to make sure every child is reached out with the vaccine,” Kayita
On the other hand, CDC Country Director, Dr Kelsey Mirkovic, said eliminating Wild Poliovirus Type 1 was a long and hard battle.
“CDC’s Picornavirus and Poliovirus laboratory in Atlanta-USA is a global specialized laboratory. It is the one where detailed genetic analysis was completed for the Poliovirus from Lilongwe which helped us to understand how long the virus had been circulating undetected. The WHO region of Africa was declared free from Wild Poliovirus type 1 in 2020 with the last known transmission in 2016. A total of $100, 000 US dollars is budgeted and used for the same annually,” said Mirkovic
The United Nations Resident Coordinator and UNICEF Representative in Malawi, Rudolf Shwenk said it is a triple-emergency as Poliomyelitis is a top up on the Covid-19 and Tropical Anna because these three can have a direct impact on one another.
“It needs regional response therefore Immunization must be prioritized. We will have experts coming this Friday. Resources have been mobilised. We really have to protect the children. Parents should make sure their children are vaccinated,” said Shwenk.
Poliomyelitis eradication is targeted globally because it is infectious and causes irreversible paralysis hence the single case has received enormous attention from all corners of the world. It spreads through consumption of contaminated food and water which makes consumption of safe water and warm food prevention measures the same.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :