Malawi: Epidemics threaten survivors one month after the flood

20 Feb 2015
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An estimated 140,000 Malawians affected by the floods remain in very high need of medical services in the hard-to-reach Nsanje and East Bank areas, with cholera representing the most immediate threat.

Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) is currently the only medical humanitarian organisation responding in this most affected district in support of the Malawi Ministry of Health teams.

Find out more about our response to the Malawi floods

Cholera cases

As of today, 20 cholera cases, one of them fatal, have been reported in Mbenje, Lulwe, Nkhande and Ndamera, in the Southern  part of Nsanje district.

MSF has supported the ministry of Health in setting up small cholera units in both locations providing, among others, oral rehydration salts, tents, chlorine, soap and boots.

Neighbouring Mozambique has already recorded 2,400 cholera cases, including 28 deaths, across three provinces including Tete province – which borders Malawi.

In Tete and Moatize MSF has set up, and co-manages with the Mozambican Ministry of Health, two treatment centres that currently treat over 100 patients.

“Most of the patients admitted with suspicion of cholera in Malawi say they came from Mutarara, a district in neighbouring Mozambique with high informal mining activities,” says Amaury Grégoire, MSF's head of mission in Malawi.

“They say that minors there started developing symptoms and died, prompting the others to flee back to their place of origin. This creates potentially a multitude of sites where cases could be notified”, adds Amaury.


Risk of epidemics

MSF has a stock of cholera kits for 2,000 patients in Malawi, and is prepared to support the setup and running of a larger cholera treatment centre if needs be.

In parallel, the we are prepared for potential epidemics such as measles and high levels of malaria.

While no measles cases have been reported, one rubella case has been confirmed and the risk of a measles epidemic remains high.

Therefore, MSF encourages and supports the districts and WHO in considering vaccination that would prevent disease and deaths in the coming weeks if carried out quickly and adequately.

MSF Malawi flood response

Since 8th January, medical teams co-managed by MSF and the ministry of Health have provided 14,457 consultations, a third of them for children under the age of five.

Half of these consultations account for three main conditions: 28 percent are respiratory tract infections, 13 percent for diarrhoea and 15 percent malaria, a percentage in line with the normal rate at this season in South Malawi.

Find out more about our response to the Malawi floods