MALAWI – The sale of food in primary and secondary schools has been outlawed in Malawi, a nation in Southeast Africa, to stem the spread of cholera among schoolchildren. 

The World Health Organization (WHO) released a statement stating that the outbreak began in March of this year and first affected districts in the southern region that were at risk for tropical storm Anna and cyclone Gombe.

Since then, the disease has spread across the entire nation of Malawi. As of 6 October 2022, there were a total of 3,960 cases and 111 fatalities divided across 22 districts.

Cholera is an acute diarrheal illness that is caused by infection of the intestine with Vibrio cholerae bacteria. 

It can cause people to become sick when they consume food or water that has been contaminated with the cholera bacteria. 

While the infection is frequently mild or symptomless, certain cases can be fatally severe.

Some of the symptoms of cholera are acute watery diarrhea, vomiting, rice water’ stools, no fever, no abdominal cramps, leg cramps, dehydration and loss of body weight.

In addition to prohibiting the sale of food in schools, the Ministry of Health has made Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) available to schools as a means of instructing them on procedures that should aid in containing the virus.

Caregivers and educators have received advice on preventative measures to reduce the likelihood of contracting cholera in a statement issued by the Ministry of Health and printed in the Maravi Post.

“Prevention can be achieved through drinking safe water, proper use of toilets, proper washing of hands with soap and safe water during the critical times, including before eating, before preparing and cooking food, after using the toilet, after cleaning a baby’s bottom or cleaning a potty and before and after taking care of a sick person,” the statement read in part.

The WHO and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) have stepped up their efforts by appealing to partners and donors for additional funds to tackle the unprecedented spread of the preventable illness.

“Every death from cholera is preventable with the tools we have today. WHO will continue to support the Ministry of Health in implementing immediate and long-term cholera control, response, and preventive measures. 

“The additional support will help ensure that lives continue to be saved, and a resilient health system is maintained during and beyond the current outbreak,” said Dr. Neema Rusibamayila Kimambo, a WHO Country Representative.

Malawi is working to control the outbreak as the next rainy season could spread cholera more widely in the area.

For all the latest food safety news from Africa and the World, subscribe to our NEWSLETTER, follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube channel.