Malawi could be sitting on an Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) contamination time bomb if findings of a study by the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom is anything to go by.
Findings of the groundbreaking study conducted by scientists at University of Oxford, one of the prestigious institutions in the world, show that Malawi is among 15 countries across Africa that could be hit by EVD which has a mortality rate of up to 90 percent.
Among the 15 countries, Malawi is predicted to be the least hit by the outbreak with under 10 000 of the population while the worst hit is predicted to be Nigeria with 2.1 million of the population at a risk.
Malawi, just like the other countries mentioned in the prediction, except for Nigeria, Liberia, Sierra Leone, are currently uncontaminated with the virus.
The other countries include Cameroon, Central African Republic, Ghana, Angola, Togo, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Burundi, Equatorial Guinea and Madagascar.
The study, published in the journal eLife, says the countries are at a risk because of their geography, meaning the potential of a visitor from a neighbouring country carrying the virus is high.
Among the nations the study considers at risk for the virus also include areas with significant poverty, which would face major challenges in establishing the sufficient number of facilities to treat an outbreak the size of the one in West Africa.
Reads the study findings in part: “Despite relatively a large population living in areas of risk and the widespread practice of bush meat hunting in these predicted areas, Ebola virus is rare both in suspected animal reservoirs and in terms of human outbreaks.”
The study, among other things, takes a look at the most likely explanation—that Ebola’s animal reservoir, fruit bats, could spread the disease in the animal kingdom and to humans through the dense forest that spans 22 countries.
In interview on Wednesday, Ministry of Health (MoH) spokesperson Henry Chimbali said the ministry is aware of the study findings and that they support the ministry’s earlier observations on Malawi’s risk status as regards Ebola.
He said as an addition to the preparedness measures that MoH has already taken which includes designation of six border points as Ebola management centres and screening of passengers from affected countries at entry points, the ministry will also “fast-track certain areas that we thought we may take time and also that gives us direction and quick decision making both in the areas of finance and technical.”
On the issue of uncharted routes, Chimbali said the routes still present as a challenge and the ministry believes it is not only on health matters but perhaps beyond.
Minister of Health Jean Kalilani recently told Parliament that government is doing everything possible to ensure that the country is Ebola-free.
She informed the house that her ministry has sent three medical doctors to Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) for training of trainers in Ebola.
The Malawi Government, through MoH, has since submitted a budget worth K280 million to Treasury for Ebola-related activities, but to date the money is not yet out.