Malawi has delayed the opening of public schools in the southern African country's two major cities of Blantyre and Lilongwe, the health minister said on Monday, to try to slow down a surge in cholera deaths.
According to the Health Ministry, the overall number of illnesses and fatalities has risen to 17,824 and 595, respectively, since cases were first recorded in March, with the fatality rate rising to 3.34 percent.
Cholera is an annual concern in Malawi during the rainy season, from November to March, with an estimated 100 deaths each year. The latest epidemic, though, is expected to be the deadliest yet.
"Due to the continuing increase of cholera cases and deaths in the cities of Blantyre and Lilongwe, primary and secondary schools in the two cities will not start on 3rd January as earlier advised," Health Minister Khumbize Chiponda said in a statement.
A new reopening date will be announced later, she said.
According to the United Nations, death rates in approximately 30 countries that reported cholera outbreaks in 2022 will be nearly a third higher than in an usual year.
Cholera is transmitted by contaminated food or water and can cause severe diarrhoea. Many people have minimal symptoms, but if left untreated, it can kill within hours.
In Malawi, victims include public health workers.
Chiponda urged authorities to improve control efforts, such as spraying chlorine to sanitize busy areas like marketplaces and schools and increasing immunizations.
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