Malawi receives 1.9 million doses of cholera vaccines to strengthen cholera preparedness and response readiness

Malawi has received 1.9 million doses of Oral Cholera Vaccine (OCV) from the Global Emergency Stockpile to support the first round of the oral cholera vaccination campaign. With support from the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF, and partners, Malawi is planning to conduct an oral cholera vaccination campaign over the next few weeks. The vaccination campaign will target 1.9 million people comprising all adults and children from one year old upwards who are living in flood-affected and cholera-prone districts. The targeted people will receive two doses of cholera vaccines two weeks apart. This is following the declaration of a cholera outbreak in Malawi on 3 March 2022. To date, Malawi has recorded over 65 cholera cases and 3 deaths across two districts in the southern region.

A total of 3.9 million oral cholera vaccines have been approved to prevent the risk of cholera spread in flood-affected districts in Malawi with support from Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.

To strengthen preparedness and response to cholera outbreak in vulnerable populations, WHO has correspondingly donated to the Malawi Ministry of Health assorted cholera investigation, laboratory, and case management kits valued at 64 Million Malawi Kwacha.

Acting WHO Representative in Malawi Dr Janet Kayita officially handed over the cholera kits to the Minister of Health Honorable Khumbize Kandodo Chiponda in Lilongwe on 7 April 2022. These emergency cholera kits will be prepositioned in cholera high-risk districts to enhance cholera response and readiness.

On 24 January 2022, Malawi was hit by moderate tropical storm Ana whichcaused severe flooding in 19 districts of the Southern and Central regions. The tropical storm destroyed homes, safe water sources, and toilets, thus leaving nearly 200,000 people displaced in informal camps. According to the health assessment report, the displaced people in camps have inadequate living space and insufficient access to safe drinking water, sanitation, and hygiene, putting them at risk of cholera and other vector borne diseases.

Cholera remains a neglected disease despite many developing countries in the world facing cholera outbreaks or the threat of a cholera epidemic.” Said Dr Janet Kayita Acting WHO Representative in Malawi. “Every death from cholera is preventable with the tools we have today. Therefore, WHO commits to provide support to the Ministry of Health to implement immediate, long-term cholera control, including surveillance, outbreak response and preventive measures.”

“Despite the recurring of cholera in the country, the Ministry of Health is committed to the global strategy to eliminate cholera. With technical support from WHO, the country is implementing a multisectoral approach integrating strengthened surveillance, vaccination, community mobilization and water, sanitation and hygiene to prevent and control cholera in hotspots districts.” Said Dr Storn Kabuluzi, Director of Preventive Health Services in the Ministry of Health.

Cholera contributes substantially to the disease burden in Malawi and is endemic with cases confirmed almost every year since the first cholera case in the country was detected in Nsanje district in 1973. Traditionally, cholera outbreaks are confirmed in districts along Lake Malawi and Shire River valley due to flooding in the low-lying districts in the Southern Region.

Envisioning a world where cholera is not a public health threat, the Global Taskforce on Cholera Control (GTFCC) launched the Global roadmap for reducing cholera deaths by 90% by 2030. WHO Country Offices are supporting the Member States to be in line with the global roadmap by strengthening capacities in countries like Malawi in cholera preparedness and response readiness.

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