from MAVHUTO BANDA in Lilongwe, Malawi
LILONGWE, (CAJ News) – THE future of children is increasingly bleak as the death toll in Malawi’s deadliest cholera outbreak surpasses 1 500.
This is also at a time the impoverished nation struggles to respond to a polio outbreak and ongoing COVID-19 cases.
The Southern African country is searing under the pressure of limited resources and an overburdened health system. Health workers are stretched to their limits.
“These are incredibly difficult times for the children of Malawi,” lamented Rudolf Schwenk, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) representative in Malawi.
Since the outbreak of cholera was officially announced just over one year ago, cholera has spread to all 29 districts.
It has affected more than 50 000 people. Of these more than 12 000 children have contracted cholera and 197 have died.
The conditions for this lethal cholera outbreak have been attributed to Tropical storms Ana and Gombe which hit Malawi just over a year ago.
This is combined with chronic underfunding on water and sanitation infrastructure, and a disruption of cholera prevention campaigns due to COVID-19.
UNICEF is concerned that, without immediate and adequate action, this outbreak will worsen as this year’s rainy season reaches its peak.
In addition, with the ongoing annual lean season, millions of Malawians are expected to be food insecure.
Currently, an estimated 4,8 million children, half the entire population of children, are in humanitarian need.
UNICEF projects that by the end of March, more than 213 000 children under five years will be acutely malnourished, with over 62 000 severely so.
Experts state that a severely malnourished child is 11 times more likely to die from cholera than a well-nourished child.
“A bout of cholera may amount to a death sentence for thousands of children in Malawi,” Schwenk warned.
UNICEF is appealing for US$52,4 million to intervene in Malawi’s health crises.
At the United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries (LDC5) in Doha, Malawi President Lazarous Chakwera on Wednesday met Mami Mizutori, Special Representative of the Secretary General United Nations on Disaster Risk Reduction.
The pair discussed the plight of Malawi amid natural disasters.
Chakwera highlighted that since 2019, Malawi had been heavily affected by cyclones Gombe, Idai and Kenneth as well as tropical storm Ana.
“The extensive damage these have caused is common knowledge both locally and globally,” the president said.
– CAJ News