The Ministry of Health (MoH) says it has requested over 400 000 doses of the cholera vaccines from the World Health Organisation (WHO) to be administered in hotspots in the Southern Region.
Speaking when he appeared before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament in Lilongwe to respond to audit queries yesterday, MoH Principal Secretary Dr Dan Namarika said: “The vaccine will be administered to people living in cholera hotspots and the doses should be in the country in the next two weeks.”
The vaccine will be administered in the Southern Region districts which recently experienced the highest number of cases, but were quick to warn that the vaccine was not the primary prevention mechanism for cholera.
He urged people to continue with good hygiene practices such as washing hands and drinking safe water.
Last year, MoH distributed about 600 000 doses of vaccines to cholera prone areas of Lake Chilwa, Dzaleka Refugee Camp in Dowa, Nsanje and Chikwawa in the Lower Shire.
Namarika said one suspected case of cholera has been registered in Nsanje, which was a concern to all stakeholders.
“We are concerned about this case because Nsanje and the Lower Shire are hot spots for cholera. We believe the suspected case has come from Mozambique so we are on high alert,” he said.
The cumulative cholera cases have so far reached 210, 10 more than cases registered on Monday this week with incidences on the rise in Karonga and Lilongwe.
Karonga has registered 160 cases with six patients still in camp; 18 cases in Nkhata Bay where the disease seems to be under control with no new cases registered in the past few days.
Lilongwe has recorded 20 cases, with six patients still in camp.
Namarika said the Lilongwe District Health Office (DHO) suspects that villagers near a dumping site in an area called Mchitanjiru have been using unsafe water sources and contributing to the rising cholera cases.
He said: “There was a damaged water kiosk, which has since been fixed by the Lilongwe Water Board. But we had a problem in that a chief was [demanding money for people] to access water at the kiosk.
But Senior Chief Tsabango, together with the DHO, Lilongwe City Council and Lilongwe Water Board, intervened to allow people access water for free.”
Salima has registered nine cases, three in Dowa and one in Kasungu in the central region.
District councils are currently carrying out sensitisation through church and traditional leaders as well as health surveillance assistants.
Salima District Council has since stopped the school feeding programme and banned vendors from selling cooked food.
Cholera has hit most parts of Southern African with neighbouring Tanzania registering 4 470 cases and 81 deaths, Zambia 2 600 cases and 48 deaths while Mozambique has registered 1 300 cases.