Rising death toll of Malawi Cholera outbreak

05 January 2023

Last updated 1st Feb.

Malawi’s latest cholera outbreak has been described as the worst in two decades, with every Malawian district affected, 1162 reported fatalities and 35,580 cumulative cases (as at 1st Feb 2023).

At the start of the year, the Government of Malawi announced that schools in Lilongwe and Blantyre would remain closed for at least two further weeks after the Christmas holidays.

The SMP is in contact with the Presidential Taskforce for Covid and Cholera, which is leading the national response, and is co-chaired by the Minister of Health and Dr Wilfred Chalamira Nkhoma.

The two Co-Chairs published an open letter on 6th January encouraging donations of: medical supplies, chlorine, water and sanitation support, Oral Rehydration Salts (ORS), and cash. We have the bank details of the official Government of Malawi cholera disaster appeal and can provide th awese who wish to donate on request. We are also happy to promote any non-governmental Malawi cholera appeals – please contact stuart@scotland-malawipartnership.org if you have an appeal.

Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland on 12th January, SMP Member, Water Witness International Executive Director Dr Nick Hepworth, spoke of the devastating impact of this outbreak and the significant cuts the UK Government has made to water, sanitation and hygiene work in Malawi.

The SMP is hosting a meeting of its Water Forum which is open to all and to which everyone is very welcome on Thursday 26th January. Opening this event, the Government of Malawi’s Principal Secretary, Ministry of Water & Sanitation, Elias Chimulambe will give an update on the current Cholera situation and the Government’s present and planned response.

Also, the SMP’s next Health Forum, on 15th February, will focus on the Cholera outbreak and hear from the taskforce. Book your place now.

We will do all we can to stand with Malawi through this crisis, offering all possible support. We encourage our members to liaise with their partners to find out the local situation and how they can assist, perhaps sharing this Ministry of Health & UNICEF community information film, in Chichewa.

We also recommend members help share the video ‘The Story of Cholera’ by the Global Health Media Project – English or Chichewa.

Read the 4th January update from the Minister of Health Hon. Khumbize Kandodo Chiponda.

Member Appeals:
  • EMMS International has launched an urgent appeal to raise £160,000 to improve water and sanitation and help save lives. Find out more and donate here > Malawi Cholera Crisis Appeal | EMMS International
  • Classrooms for Malawi have been asked to support the Malawi Government's initiatives on hygiene. They are raising funds to provide soap in schools. Donations are welcome here.

Please email jade@scotland-malawipartnership.org to add your appeal to this list.

Cholera is an annual problem during Malawi's rainy months, typically from December to March, with typically around 100 cholera deaths a year. This current outbreak is far exceeding these numbers and may ultimately even be the worse that the 2001 outbreak, which killed 968 people in Malawi, according to the WHO.

Cholera is contracted by eating food or drinking water contaminated with the Vibrio cholerae bacterium. It can affect children and adults, causing severe diarrhoea, and can kill within hours if left untreated. The rainy season typically worsens the situation as floods mix waste and drinking water.

Most people with Cholera can be treated successfully through prompt administration of oral rehydration solution. However, even this cheap and simple treatment is hard to administer in rural Malawi, especially during the rainy season when roads can become impassable. In Malawi the case fatality rate has risen to 3.4%.

There are calls to tighten health control measures in Malawi, including spraying chlorine to disinfect congested places such as markets and schools and stepping up inoculations.

Last month a World Health Organisation official said that the global stockpile of cholera vaccines, which is managed by the WHO, was "currently empty or extremely low".

Useful videos

Click to watch...

The Story of Cholera, Global Health Media Project, English
The Story of Cholera, Global Health Media Project, Chichewa