By Moses Michael-Phiri
BLANTYRE, Malawi (AA) - The death toll from Malawi's cholera outbreak reached 1,002, while total cases have risen to 30,621, the highest on record in the East African nation, its health minister announced on Wednesday.
"Delays in taking a person showing signs and symptoms of cholera to the health facility or a designated treatment center (is) leading to many deaths," Khumbize Chiponda said in a statement shared with Anadolu.
Chiponda said most of the deaths occurred in the two main cities of Lilongwe and Blantyre, where authorities allowed children back to school after a delayed opening to curb the spread of the disease and in three lakeshore districts of Mangochi, Salima, and Nkhata Bay.
The minister blamed cultural rituals related to the deaths of cholera victims for helping spread the disease.
"For example, people who are dying of or who have died from cholera may be washed by family members who then prepare funeral feasts for family and friends held very soon after the death. Outbreaks of cholera commonly follow these feasts," Chiponda said.
Cholera, an acute diarrheal disease caused by bowel infection, can lead to severe dehydration and death if left untreated.
Despite a combination of interventions, including a vaccine drive that started last May, the outbreak kept on spreading and has now affected all 28 districts in the country.
Meanwhile, in a telephone call on Tuesday, USAID Administrator Samantha Power spoke with President Lazarus McCathy Chakwera on the cholera crisis.
In a statement shared with Anadolu, Power's spokesperson Jessica Jennings said the two discussed the worsening cholera situation in the country and mobilization of USAID global health and humanitarian assistance resources to respond to the outbreak.
"Administrator Power assured President Chakwera of USAID support and solidarity in response to the accelerating cholera outbreak and applauded the Government of Malawi's health response," Jennings said, according to the statement.