What you need to know:
- Currently, Africa is facing extreme weather conditions, with the horn of Africa experiencing one of the worst droughts in nearly four decades.
- Kenya has recorded more than 4,000 cases of cholera since the outbreak on October 10 last year.
- Malawi is the most affected country with more than 53,000 confirmed cholera cases and more than 1,600 deaths since the outbreak was first declared in March 2022. Five provinces in Mozambique bordering Malawi have registered sharp increases in cholera cases since mid-December 2022.
Experts have termed climate change as one of the most contributing factors to cholera outbreaks in Africa. This comes at a time when Kenya has recorded more than 4,000 cases of cholera since the outbreak on October 10 last year.
Droughts and tropical storms have affected the availability of clean and safe drinking water in some regions of the continent, according to Dr Alinafe Kasiya, Malawi country director, VillageReach.
VillageReach is a non-profit global health innovator that develops, tests, implements and scales new solutions to critical health system challenges in low-resource environments.
“While epidemics typically start in the rainy season, last year cholera outbreak began during the dry season. The arrival of the rains only accelerated the spread of the waterborne disease,” he said.
Currently, Africa is facing extreme weather conditions, with the horn of Africa experiencing one of the worst droughts in nearly four decades.
Malawi is the most affected country with more than 53,000 confirmed cholera cases and more than 1,600 deaths since the outbreak was first declared in March 2022. Five provinces in Mozambique bordering Malawi have registered sharp increases in cholera cases since mid-December 2022.
In Kenya, as of January this year, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies had confirmed cholera outbreak in 12 counties - Garissa, Kajiado, Kiambu, Machakos, Meru, Muranga, Nairobi, Nakuru, Nyeri, Uasin Gishu, Tana River and Wajir.
Dr Kasiya notes that Malawi also faces an acute shortage of health workers. “The cholera outbreak, on top of the prolonged impacts of Covid-19, has put a strain on health workers’capacity to treat the sick, provide accurate and up-to-date health information, conduct vaccination campaigns and track cases, while maintaining other routine health services.”
To reduce the number of new cases and deaths, the Malawian government has launched the national Tithetse kolera (End Cholera) campaign.
“We are supporting this campaign by providing critical and accurate health information to help people make informed decisions about their health and providing referrals so that people can seek the necessary care.”
This, he says, is being done through a toll-free hotline - Chipatala cha pa foni (CCPF), that connects callers directly with health workers.
CCPF, which was developed by Malawi’s Ministry of Health, is now giving people up-to-date information on cholera and referrals for the necessary health services.
“The hotline also helps collect data and generate information on health trends including needs and misconceptions about cholera circulating at the local level, strengthening the ability of the ministry to meet the needs of its communities,” says Dr Kasiya.
According to the World Health Organization, the global vaccine stockpile has been exhausted due to high demand. “The acute shortage of vaccines is one of the many obstacles hindering proactive use of the cholera jab in Africa.”
Dr Kasiya says as a continent, while we await another supply of the cholera vaccine, we need to invest in systems and workforces that will ultimately help get people vaccinated.