What causes cholera?

By Isaac Kadam’manja, Form 3 student, Chinsapo Secondary School

Isaac Kadam’manja, Form 3 student, Chinsapo Secondary School © UNICEF/2018/Naomi Kalemba

Cholera is a diarrheal disease that is caused by bacteria. The first cholera cases in Malawi were recorded around 1976. Since then many people have lost their lives to the disease.

People can contract cholera through drinking untreated water. Many people drink water from polluted rivers. They drink it without boiling or applying chlorine to kills any germs that might be in the water. If the water has cholera causing bacteria, it makes them sick.

Cholera can also spread through eating contaminated food. Some people like eating foods like fruits and vegetables without washing them first. If such food stuffs are contaminated they may cause sickness. That is why it is advisable to wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly before eating them.

Poor hygiene also causes cholera. Hygiene is a problem among many Malawians. For example, people dispose rubbish in places like the roadsides and rivers. It is along the same roadsides and rivers that vendors sell foodstuffs. House flies transmit bacteria from the rotting waste onto the food. People who buy and eat such food can get infected with cholera.

Poor hygiene also happens when handling diapers. A lot of people do not wash their hands after visiting the toilet and after changing diapers. They eat food without washing their hands with soap. This increases their risk of contracting cholera. It is therefore, the duty of parents to train children on good hygienic practices.

Cholera causes death. A person suffering from cholera loses a lot of water through vomiting and diarrhea. Water is very important in our bodies. If a cholera patient loses a lot of water and are not treated within eight hours, they will die.

Community members in Chinsapo discuss messages on a cholera poster during an awareness activity 
 © UNICEF/2018/Lameck Luhanga

How can we prevent the spread of cholera in Malawi?

Awareness campaigns are the first preventive measures. The government and non-governmental organizations must conduct awareness campaigns to educate people about the dangers of cholera and to distribute chlorine for treating water.

Another preventative measure is to gather community leaders to identify places that breed the bacteria that causes cholera. Nowadays, technology can help them. Drones that carry cameras can capture areas with high risk of spreading cholera and give pictures to the community leaders. This makes it simple for the leaders to identify places which are unhealthy and need to be cleaned.

Cholera is a dangerous disease that leads to death. It is therefore important to handle cholera patients with caution. When treating them, it is important to put on protective gear such as

gloves. Cholera is a deadly disease. People must unite and stand together against cholera to save lives.

Community health workers in blue, discussing water purification process with community members in Chinsapo
 © UNICEF/2018/Lameck Luhanga

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