The timing could hardly have been worse. Just a few weeks before Malawi’s staple maize crop was due to be harvested, heavy rains swept through the southern part of the country, taking with them the yet-to-be-collected grain, thousands of houses and cutting off access to some areas; dozens were killed.
The day began as usual. I woke up at 6:30 am to get ready for work. An hour or so later, I arrived in Area 24 to join my colleagues, and try to stop the spread of cholera in the area.
Area 24 is a crowded township located on the boundary between Malawi’s capital city, Lilongwe, and the surrounding rural district.
Our task for the day was simple: to locate, photograph and mark on a Google map all the nearby sanitation and hygiene facilities including toilets, water points and dumpsites.
On 20 May 2018, Lilongwe became cholera free, following an outbreak that lasted four months, affected 388 people, and claimed 18 lives. Nationally, over 900 people were affected with 30 deaths. The outbreak was caused by unsafe water consumption and poor hygiene and sanitation practices. Unless these underlying issues are addressed, cholera is likely to return.
Malawi is currently facing a cholera outbreak in Lilongwe. This is the latest in series of cholera outbreaks across the country, caused by unsafe water sources and poor hygiene practices. In September 2017, UNICEF’s Rebecca Phwitiko travelled to Chikwawa and Nsanje to report on cholera outbreaks in the south of Malawi.
It’s only September, but the heat is already becoming unbearable. At the peak of summer, temperatures rise to a scorching 42°C in Nsanje, southern Malawi. The main road which traverses Malawi from Karonga in the north, becomes an earth road in the southern district. About 56km of bumpy earth road leads to Ndamera. There is not much to see on the way, just a few cows and some kiosks. The heat and the dust make the journey seem even longer.