UN, humanitarian partners mobilising for US$45.3m aid for Malawi cholera outbreak

As new cases of the cholera continue to increase in Malawi, the United Nations and its humanitarian partners have today, February 20, launched a Flash Appeal to assist 4 million people, including 56,000 refugees and asylum-seekers, who have been hardest-hit by, and are at highest-risk of, the outbreak.

A statement from the UN says this is in support of the Government-led response, in which various corporate companies and development partners have undertaken and the UN’s appeal — which calls for US$45.3 million for the next five months — “comes as the numbers of cholera cases and deaths in Malawi have increased exponentially since the beginning of January 2023, worsening what is already the deadliest cholera outbreak in the country’s history”.

UN Resident Coordinator in Malawi, Rebecca Adda-Dontoh is supporting Chakwera’s efforts in the fight against cholera

The situation report by the Presidential Taskforce on CoVID-19 & Cholera, records that Monday, February 20, the country reported 434 new cases, accompanied by eight new deaths — two each in Lilongwe and Dedza; and one each in Balaka, Mulanje, Nkhotakota and Ntcheu.

The statement from the UN quotes Resident Coordinator in Malawi, Rebecca Adda-Dontoh as saying: “Despite all the efforts taken since the first cholera case was reported in Malawi, nearly one year ago, the situation remains of grave concern.

“Every day, the number of cases increases, and more people die. However, the good news is that, while cholera is highly transmissible, it is also easily treatable when cases are caught early and preventable when communities have access to clean water and good sanitation.”

Chakwera during the launch of Tithetse Cholera m’Malawi

The statement further says the Malawi Cholera Flash Appeal — which is launched to coincide with Government’s cholera campaign, Tithetse Cholera M’Malawi — aims to address the most immediate needs of people impacted by the outbreak through an integrated response that brings together health and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH).

It is also to ensure communities are engaged, prepared and supported to respond to and reduce cholera and in acknowledging that the outbreak has taken a devastating toll on the hardest-hit communities, the Flash Appeal also calls for support to essential health, nutrition, education and protection services in affected and high-risk locations.

Adda-Dontoh is further quoted as saying: “I had the privilege of joining His Excellency President Chakwera and Honourable Minister of Health in visiting three cholera treatment centres in Lilongwe last week, where I spoke with health-care workers who requested more support to treat the endless flow of patients they are receiving.

“When left untreated, cholera can kill in less than 12 hours, but with simple IV fluids, most patients are rapidly on the road to recovery. No one should die of cholera in 2023 and the world can, and must, step-up to help Malawians in their time of need.”

The current cholera outbreak, which started in March 2022, has affected all 29 districts of Malawi and is the largest outbreak in the country in the past two decades — which President Chakwera describing it that “it has come with vengeance”.

The number of cases increased dramatically at the start of the rainy season in November 2022 and, as of Monday, February 20, the cumulative confirmed figure of confirmed cases since the outset in March last year is at 46,219 with deaths at 1,476 — at case fatality rate of 3.19%

The situation report says a total of 44,092 people have recovered and as of Monday evening, 651 were in treatment centres. All the 29 health districts of the country have reported cholera cases since the outbreak first recorded in Machinga last year with the past 14 days the disease being reported in 26 districts while three have so far been controlled.

Lilongwe now has the most case recorded at 8,352 cases with 455 deaths; followed by Mangochi (7,898 cases/122 deaths; Blantyre (6,599/193); Balaka (3,449/88); Salima (3,138/86); Machinga (1,023/78); Dedza (1,547/57); Nkhata Bay (1,517/44); Nkhotakota (1,353/57); Dowa (1,181/36); Chiradzulu (1,174/37) and Rumphi (1,048/17).

In three digits are Ntcheu (994/29); Karonga (946/25); Thyolo (941/28) and Mulanje (712/30). February 18, nearly 45,000 cases had been reported, including nearly 1,450 deaths.

According to the UN statement, experts anticipate that, unless urgent and intensified action is taken to scale-up the response, between 64,000 and 100,000 cases could be reported in the next three months.

Thus the UN and its partners in Malawi “urgently call on donors to fund the Flash Appeal and enable them to work swiftly in support of the Government-led response to contain the outbreak and prevent further, avoidable, loss of life”.

In the situation report, Minister of Health Khumbize Kandodo Chiponda reiterated that the Tithetse Cholera M’Malawi campaign is aimed at getting a quick reversal of the outbreak and the rising trend of new cases by delivering a package of integrated interventions at community level

“The goal of the campaign is to contribute to the reduction of cholera incidence and mortality through early detection and prompt response at community level.”

Thus she appealed to everyone to take part in the fight while appealing to the public to change their behaviour and strictly adhere to the preventive, control and containment measures.

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