South Malawi still facing acute medical needs a month after the floods

An estimated 140.000 Malawians affected by the floods remain in very high need of medical services in the hard-to-reach Nsanje and East Bank areas, with cholera representing the most immediate threat, said the medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders (MSF), currently the only medical humanitarian actor responding on in this most affected district in support of the Malawi ministry of Health teams.

MSF health worker treating a patient in flood hit areas
MSF health worker treating a patient in flood hit areas

As of today, 20 cholera cases, one of them fatal, have been reported in Mbenje, Lulwe, Nkhande and Ndamera, in the Southern  part of Nsanje district. MSF has supported the ministry of Health in setting up small cholera units in both locations providing, among others, oral rehydration salts, tents, chlorine, soap and boots.

Neighbouring Mozambique has already recorded 2.400 cholera cases, including 28 deaths, spread across three provinces including Tete province which borders Malawi. In Tete and Moatize MSF has set up and co-manages with the Mozambican ministry of health two treatment centres that currently treat over 100 patients.

“Most of the patients admitted with suspicion of cholera in Malawi say they came from Mutarara, a district in neighbouring Mozambique with high informal mining activities. They say that minors there started developing symptoms and died, prompting the others to flee back to their place of origin. This creates potentially a multitude of sites where cases could be notified”, says Amaury Grégoire, MSF’s head of mission in Malawi. MSF has a stock of cholera kits for 2,000 patients in Malawi, and is prepared to support the setup and running of a larger cholera treatment center if need be.

In parallel the organisation is prepared for potential epidemics such as measles as well as for scenario of high levels of malaria. While no measles is reported yet, one rubella case has been confirmed and the risk of measles epidemic remains high. Therefore MSF encourages and supports the districts and WHO in considering vaccination that would prevent disease and deaths in the coming weeks if carried out quickly and adequately.

Since January 8th medical teams co-managed by MSF and the ministry of Health have provided 14.457 consultations, a third of them for children under the age of five. Half of these consultations account for three main pathologies: 28 per cent are respiratory tract infection, 13 per cent for diarrhoea and 15 per cent malaria, a percentage in line with the normal rate at this season in South Malawi.

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