Malawi’s Head of State, Dr. Lazarus McCarthy Chakwera, has called upon the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to prioritize the local production of vaccines for diseases such as cholera within the region, advocating for a departure from dependence on pharmaceutical entities from outside the SADC borders. President Chakwera conveyed these sentiments during the virtual convening of the Extraordinary Summit of SADC Heads of State and Government.
The summit, held on Friday, centered its discussions on adopting proactive measures to prevent, combat, and ultimately eradicate cholera within the SADC region. Acknowledging the compounding impact of climate change on the prevalence of the disease and its ramifications for communities in the region, including Malawi, President Chakwera underscored the inevitability of flare-ups.
Among the resolutions reached by SADC members were commitments to invest in and develop resilient Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) infrastructure, augment budget allocations for WASH initiatives, foster collaborative efforts across various sectors, implement eco-friendly waste management systems, elevate cross-border resilience initiatives, and fortify accountability mechanisms for monitoring the efficacy of cholera response and prevention measures.
In his remarks, President Chakwera emphasized the imperative of timely data and information sharing among member states to effectively combat and prevent cholera outbreaks in the SADC region.
Additionally, President Chakwera highlighted Malawi’s strides since the significant cholera outbreak in 2022. He noted that current statistics indicate a considerable reduction in cholera cases and associated deaths compared to the corresponding period between 2022 and 2023 when Malawi reported nearly 60,000 cases and over a thousand deaths.
The gains can be attributed to a concerted effort to not only end cholera but prevent it. as demonstrated by the “Tithetse Cholera” and the “Tipewe Cholera” campaigns both launched by President Chakwera in August and October 2023 respectively after having declared in a Public Health Emergency on 5th December 2022..
President Chakwera emphasised that cholera has “cast a shadow over the entire region” and insisted that this is all the more reason why SADC member states must collaboratively seek to rid the region of the scourge.
Other Heads of State including His Excellency, President Emmerson Mnangagwa of Zimbabwe echoed President Chakwera’s remarks stating that the region must address the underlying drivers that contribute to the emergence and prevalence of cholera.
Meanwhile President Hakainde Hichilema of Zambia stressed the need to do away with the stigmatisation associated with cholera, which he added has led to the deaths of many Zambians, adding that 60 percent of the casualties in the recent Cholera outbreak in Zambia, were as a result of untimely access to medical assistance, due to stigma.
The meeting also designated President Hichilema as the SADC Cholera Champion.
Other states represented during the meeting included Mozambique, Eswathini, South Africa, Madagascar, DRC, Mauritius, Lesotho, Namibia and the Seychelles.