Malawians fear storm Freddy could make deadliest cholera outbreak worse
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[March 18, 2023]
By Eldson Chagara
BLANTYRE (Reuters) - Despite her fears, Fyness Afiki joined other women
drawing dirty water from a well in Malawi's second-biggest city
Blantyre, which is still reeling from the devastation caused by Tropical
"I am fearful of cholera but there is no potable water and I have no
option. I don't have money," she told Reuters on Friday in Blantyre's
Malawi seemed to be getting its deadliest cholera outbreak yet under
control, with World Health Organization figures showing a decline in
cases and deaths, but locals and health experts worry that trend could
quickly reverse in Freddy's wake.
One of the strongest and deadliest storms ever in Africa, the storm has
killed over 320 people in Malawi alone, with heavy rains, floods and
mudslides making access to clean drinking water impossible for many.
Cholera spreads through contaminated water and food. Many people have
mild symptoms, but it can kill within hours if untreated.
"Unfortunately ... there is a real concern now that we could in the next
few weeks see a reversal in the gains that were so hard-won over the
past month or so," said Arielle Nylander, senior health policy analyst
Eunice Mselemu, a nurse who works at a cholera camp in a health facility
near Blantyre, said she had observed cases already increasing and is
concerned overwhelmed health workers will be unable to cope.
[to top of second column]
Hendry Keinga reacts after he lost a
family member during the Mtauchira village mudslide in the aftermath
of Cyclone Freddy in Blantyre, Malawi, March 16, 2023. REUTERS/Esa
Robert Hanjahanja, chief executive
of the city's water board, which is battling to fix broken water
pipes, said there was a crisis.
Malawi has conducted two oral cholera vaccination campaigns, but a
global surge in cholera outbreaks has meant vaccines are in short
WHO officials say the best that countries like Malawi can do is to
stretch their meagre resources and try to contain outbreaks as they
Another Ndirande resident, Francis Moyani, said he was determined to
get the cholera vaccine as he was scared of contracting the disease.
"As things are, cholera will rise and I want to be fully protected,"
(Reporting by Eldson Chagara and Frank Phiri in Blantyre, and Carien
du Plessis in Johannesburg; Writing by Bhargav Acharya; Editing by
Alexander Winning and Richard Chang)
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