Cholera threats at my school in Chinsapo, Lilongwe

By Alinafe Banda, Form 3 Student, Chinsapo Secondary School

Alinafe Banda at Chinsapo Secondary School. © UNICEF Malawi/2018/Naomi Kalemba

Cholera is an acute diarrheal disease that is caused by bacteria. It spreads through consuming water and food that has been contaminated with the fecal material containing the cholera bacteria. Once in the body, the bacteria multiplies rapidly and causes severe diarrhea, vomiting and abdominal pains.

Cholera spreads in many ways. At my school, Chinsapo secondary school, students buy food from vendors. The vendors do not cover the food, exposing it to flies that might be carrying the cholera-causing bacteria. Eating such food can cause cholera.

Overcrowding and lack of sanitation also helps to spread cholera. Our school has a lot of students but very few toilets to cater for them. In addition, the toilets are not used properly nor are they cleaned frequently, making them a breeding ground for cholera. If one student with cholera uses them, flies come into contact with their excreta and then land on food, this could start a cholera outbreak in the school.

Another way in which cholera can be transmitted is through poor disposal of rubbish. Waste creates a breeding ground for the bacteria that cause cholera. Unfortunately, at my school students dispose of waste carelessly. Flies from the rubbish piles may easily contaminate the food that students buy for lunch and make them sick.

A cholera treatment center at Bwaila hospital in in Lilongwe, where patients are treated in isolation
 © UNICEF/2018/Lameck Luhanga

Cholera is dangerous. Once a person is infected with cholera, they become very weak and can die if left untreated.

A cholera outbreak can also affect community development. When a lot of people are sick, they do not have time to carry out development projects in their communities. This can slow down progress.

It is important to note that cholera can be prevented and controlled. Education and awareness campaigns should be used to sensitize people on the proper use of latrines, the importance of washing hands after defecation and the importance of boiling water before drinking in order to kill all germs.

Cholera cases can also be prevented by discouraging the use of ‘flying toilets’. This means defecating in plastic bags and throwing them into water. People should be encouraged to construct proper toilets or pit latrines to control the transmission of germs.

During a cholera outbreak, vaccinations should be given to those individuals under threat. Cholera patients should be treated very quickly and by qualified medical personnel. Where possible, the movement of cholera patients and their guardians should be restricted and they should avoid handling food for other people.

It is important for people to work together to prevent and control cholera. Prevention is everybody’s responsibility.

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