The European Union (EU) has announced an additional 1.5 million euro (about K1.5 billion) to be channelled through the World Health Organisation (WHO) for the cholera response in the country.
The new package comes weeks after the launch of a flash appeal by the United Nations (UN) and other humanitarian partners to raise $45.3 million (about K46.93 billion) to assist four million people in Malawi hit hard by the cholera outbreak.
Making the announcement during a press briefing in Lilongwe yesterday, EU Ambassador Rune Skinnebach said the bloc remains committed to working with the Malawi Government in strengthening preparedness to health crises and other emergencies considering the cyclone season, which may worsen the cholera situation.
He said: “We have entered the cyclone season and we all know very well how extreme weather events can have disastrous effects on the social and economic fabric of the country. They can exacerbate the current cholera crisis and we must be prepared.
“Though we know that cholera represents a recurring problem for Malawi, the magnitude of the current crisis, affecting a large part of the population and showing a very high fatality rate, calls for collective efforts from government and the international community,”
Skinnebach also highlighted the EU’s humanitarian aid office’s response to the cholera crisis so far with three rounds of assistance before the disease was declared an emergency.
The assistance, he said, was channelled through aid organisations participating in the international humanitarian coordination mechanisms in the country, including the Malawi Red Cross Society and UN agencies.
Said Skinnebach: “Three rounds of financial assistance have been announced so far: 100 000 euro [about K100 million] to the Red Cross mainly for prepositioning of non-food items; one million euro [about K1 billion] to the United Nations Children’s Fund [Unicef] to provide life-saving and Wash services to cholera affected communities to improve case management and reduce deaths: and 1.5 million euro [about K1.5 billion] to the WHO for procurement of essential supplies [Oral Rehydration Therapy-ORT] IV fluids, antibiotics, personal protective equipment [PPE] and logistics for safe burial to strengthen rapid response capabilities.”
He said the EU Delegation has also mobilised 600 000 euro, of which 100 000 euro is directed to strengthening water, sanitation and hygiene (Wash) activities in schools that benefit from the EU-funded school feeding programme while the rest will support community sensitisation, zinc supplementation and water chlorination.
“The major cause of this fast-spreading cholera is limited access to clean water and sanitation facilities. This is why, in addition to the announced humanitarian funding and in response to the strategic objective of the flash appeal, the EU Delegation in Malawi has mobilised K130 million to reinforce Wash practices necessary for prevention and management of cholera outbreak in schools and communities in the south of the country,” he said.
He obser ved that to prevent chol e r a contamination, the most impactful interventions are in access to clean water and sanitation.
S k inneb a ch sa i d : “Cholera is a preventable and treatable disease. It all starts at the community level, with sensitising people about the illness and reducing the stigma attached to it. Cholera has nothing to do with keeping oneself or one’s household clean.
“Improving communities access to clean water and safe sanitation structures would thus reduce to a great degree, the spread of the disease, which would in turn, reduce the need for emergency health interventions.”
During the briefing, the EU also said it has disbursed two million euros (about K2 billion) through the World Food Programme (WFP) for cash transfers to communities in Dzaleka Refugee Camp in Dowa.
In a recent statement, UN resident coordinator Rebecca Adda-Dontoh observed that the cholera situation remains dire, with a case fatality rate of 3.21 percent.
She said: “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.”
The Flash Appeal also followed the launch of President Lazarus Chakwera’s Thithetse Kolera Campaign aimed at ensuring that everyone across the country gets the message about how to prevent and contain the killer disease.
At least 1 620 people have died from cholera and over 50 000 affected since the onset of the outbreak in March 2022.