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    Malawi – Ebola - Health

    How Ebola is impacting on the Malawi economy

    APA- Lilongwe (Malawi) By Fazilla Tembo

    Malawi is one of the African countries which have not yet registered any suspected case of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD).

    The disease which has no cure so far has ravaged many lives in West African countries of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia with imported cases in Nigeria and Senegal where it has already killed over 1,000 people. A new strain has also been confirmed in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where 31 people have been killed so far. Ebola is a viral disease with a 90 per cent mortality rate. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has since declared Ebola a public health emergency. Just like other countries, the threat of Ebola is real for Malawi, according to Malawi Ministry of Health spokesperson Henry Chimbali, the country is on preparatory stage where all necessary precaution measures are currently being undertaken to prevent its occurrence. “We are strengthening the local system through public education and preparedness. It is important that the general public get the right information through all the appropriate channels of communication to avoid panic and fear,” he explained. The Ministry also conducted sensitization meetings with central hospitals and zonal and district health offices on Ebola. During this meeting, he said, it was agreed that three central hospitals in Mzuzu, Lilongwe and Queen Elizabeth have been designated as treatment centers for Ebola and be in isolated buildings away from the other patients at the hospital. Realizing that Ebola can also come to Malawi by land, Chimbali explained, six border districts have also been designated as Ebola management centres especially those with ports of entry such as Mwanza, Dedza, Mchinji, Songwe, Kaporo (Karonga), Chitipa and Muloza (Mulanje) Ebola rapid response teams have been set up for Lilongwe, Blantyre, Mzuzu and in all border districts. How is Ebola impacting on Malawi Economy? The Minister of Health Jean Kalirani said that a budget for Ebola preparedness plan and other specific activities was finalized and submitted to the Treasury for funding totaling about K280 million (US$700,000). She said the Treasury has authorized the Ministry to use its available resources for Ebola control specific activities and that it will be refunded. “Unfortunately, the funding to the Ministry for the month of August for its other operations was only K235 million (US$587,500) which was not enough to cater for all activities lined up,” she said. Obviously, she observed, any preparatory activities require resources and that actually in one way or the other deprives other areas with the needed resources. Kalirani explained that the government was aware that it was doing all this in an emergency mode as such resources have to be found quickly and that also puts pressure on some areas within the health sector. The Chairperson for the Health Parliamentary Committee, Juliana Lunguzi said the impact of Ebola on the country’s economy will be huge on one way or the other. “It will be a catastrophe for the country because we are already hit by financial problems whereby the government has resorted to Zero-Aid budget, a budget without any donor support,” she said. Lunguzi explained that bringing in new challenges like Ebola disease although in a preparatory state, will still cripple other activities in the health sector because funding for the sector will definitely be limited since the country run on tax-payers money. Malawi is already burdened by HIV and Aids, malaria, cancer, tuberculosis among others, “putting in another burden on top of the existing ones. This will be a big blow to the country’s economy,” she said. Meanwhile, a Member of Parliament for Lilongwe City Central, who is also Malawi’s first Jewish parliamentarian, Bisnowaty has donated Ebola testing equipment at the country’s two main airports, Kamuzu and Chileka International Airports. The Ministry of Health has disclosed that the government is currently renovating the two airports with special facilities to be used for observing and screening suspected Ebola cases. An epidemiologist, Settie Kanyanda has disclosed that all border posts in Malawi have infra-red thermometers that are being used for screening Ebola. He said the government has trained a rapid response team. However, the WHO Malawi Disease Prevention and Control Officer in Malawi, Kelias Msyamboza said that though Malawi has deployed standard operating procedures for detecting the disease, it remains among a few Southern African countries that lack the capacity to handle the epidemic.


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