Malawi has reported more than 1,000 deaths from a cholera outbreak that began in March 2022, the country’s Ministry of Health said in a statement on Wednesday.
Reported cases since the outbreak have risen to 31,241, according to a statement, while the death toll stands at 1,023.
Health Minister Khumbize Chiponda told a news conference on Thursday that deaths from cholera had multiplied in the past month.
“In four weeks, the numbers have doubled,” he added.
As of December 26, the total death toll from the bacterial disease stood at 486, Malawi government data showed.
According to Chiponda, about 66 percent of the victims were men, but children have also died from the disease, he said.
“We have also lost children…about 11 school-age children,” Chiponda said, adding that Malawi is witnessing its worst cholera outbreak in two decades.
“The last time we had the worst case of cholera was in 2002,” the minister said.
The current death rate exceeds the country’s largest cholera outbreak that killed more than 900 people, according to the data, between 2001 and 2002.
Malawi’s Ministry of Health said 1,126 people with cholera were currently admitted to treatment units, adding that all 29 health districts in the country had been affected by the disease since the outbreak began.
The ministry also warned people to be careful when handling the bodies of cholera victims and preparing them for funerals.
“Some cultural rituals associated with the death of cholera victims help to perpetuate the disease. For example, people who are dying or have died from cholera may be washed by family members who then prepare funeral banquets; cholera outbreaks commonly follow these banquets,” the statement said.
The disease had been in decline for years, but 2022 saw what the United Nations called “a worrying increase” in cholera outbreaks around the world.
People who live in areas with a shortage of safe drinking water or inadequate sanitation are vulnerable to illness, which can result from consuming food or water contaminated with bacteria.
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