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Malawi battles outbreak of scabies that health experts link to climate crisis - The Guardian

Author: The Guardian

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2023/oct/30/malawi-battles-outbreak-of-scabies-that-health-experts-link-to-climate-crisis

Image of Malawi battles outbreak of scabies that health experts link to climate crisis - The Guardian

Malawi has seen a resurgence of the infectious skin disease scabies in an outbreak that is being linked to the climate crisis.Just months after a cholera outbreak killed more than 1,800 people and affected a total of 58,982 people in August, the country has seen the return of the disease in the northern city of Mzuzu and the southern Nsanje district, with 4,152 cases registered in the past week.Scabies is a highly contagious disease caused by tiny mites that burrow into the skin causing intense irritation and discomfort.It is spread through skin to skin contact.George Mbotwa, the spokesperson for Nsanje district hospital, said the hospital was struggling to cope with the influx of cases.“We registered 4,000 cases across Nsanje district and we are still screening.But the challenge is that we do not have enough medicine to treat the disease. However, we are relying on partnerships with other organisations to help so can we treat people.“We are doing mass [public] awareness … because this is a disease related to hygiene and hygiene issues also lead to cholera,” he said.“We call on organisations and other partners to come forward to assist us.”Mbotwa said 1,600 of the 4,000 cases were school-age children.In Mzuzu, Mzimba North District Health Office spokesperson Lovemore Kawayi said about 152 cases had been registered and an awareness campaign was in place to contain the spread of the disease.Health campaigners believe the outbreak could be directly linked to the climate crisis, as the current heatwave, high humidity and water shortages across Malawi make people more vulnerable to disease outbreaks.Public health expert Maziko Matemba said Malawi needs to do more to address the impact of the climate crisis on health.“Looking at scabies, which has affected Mzuzu city and Nsanje districts, I believe that could be as a result of climate change.“Climate change and health are very critical for Malawi and we need to do more in terms of climate change negotiations.We need to look at the impacts on people’s health to ensure we try as much to avoid these conditions,” said Matemba.According to WaterAid Malawi, one in three people (about 5.6 million people) in the country do not have access to clean watere.About 3,100 children under five die every year from diarrhoea caused by poor sanitation, it said.According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s sixth assessment report, climate risks are appearing faster than previously expected, and 3.6 billion people live in areas already highly affected by climate change.Despite contributing minimally to global emissions, low-income countries and small island developing states endure the harshest health impacts. In vulnerable regions, the death rate from extreme weather events in the past decade was 15 times higher than in less vulnerable ones.

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