Religious leaders in the Southeastern African nation of Malawi are appealing to the government, donor agencies, and people of goodwill to support the Christian Health Association of Malawi (CHAM) in controlling the spread of cholera and contain the epidemic.

Malawi is currently experiencing one of the worst cholera outbreaks in years, Relief Web reported. Since 5 December 2022, there has been an increase in cases of cholera in the country.

In a joint statement issued Friday, January 13, members of the Episcopal Conference of Malawi (ECM) and the Malawi Council of Churches (MCC), the Mother Bodies that established CHAM, say, “Since the declaration of cholera as a public health emergency on 5th December 2022, the country went on to record 6,760 cases in a period of 4 weeks affecting all districts.”

Within the same period, the religious leaders say, “The country had recorded 318 deaths. As of 12th January 2023, a total of 23,217 cases with 773 deaths had been recorded.”

“This could be so as the rainy season coupled with high population density has complemented the main risks for cholera infection namely; unsafe water, inadequate infection prevention and control practices as well as sanitary facilities,” they say in the January 13 statement.

They note that a “good number of CHAM facilities in Lilongwe, Blantyre, Mangochi and Zomba have been hardest hit as they lie in cholera hot-spot districts.”

“CHAM has a total of 51 health facilities in the four mentioned districts serving a combined total population of 1,304,452,” the religious leaders say.

Against this backdrop, the religious leaders in Malawi appeal for partnerships to help CHAM address the health challenge. 

“We appeal to the Government of Malawi to authorize CHAM to employ temporary frontline health workers to contain the cholera epidemic,” religious leaders in Malawi say in their collective statement.

They appeal to the government of Malawi and its bilateral and multilateral partners, the private sector as well as other well-wishers “to make available cholera supplies such as cholera vaccine, chlorine, gloves, IV solution (Lingers Lactate), IV lines, plaster, drip stands, intravenous cannula, Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs), water buckets (tapped and non-tapped), gum boots and tents among others to all CHAM facilities in the hardest hit districts.”

“We request the Government that, in the new MOU, which is yet to be signed, costs for public health emergencies should be included,” the religious leaders add.

They appeal to the general public “to take the cholera outbreak seriously by practicing infection prevention measures such as regular washing of hands with soap and drinking safe water among others.”

“It is our sincere hope and prayer that together as a nation, we shall remove this burden from our society as soon as possible,” they add.

The religious leaders further say Malawians need to join forces if they are to “win the battle against cholera because the Government alone cannot win it.”

On January 12, Malawi’s Health Minister Khumbize Kandodo Chiponda ordered the “closure of many businesses that lack safe water, toilets and hygienic refuse disposal facilities, and announced restrictions on the sale of pre-cooked food.”