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Malaria,Cholera epidemics overshadowed by COVID-19

Malaria and Cholera wreaking havoc as Ethiopia’s attention is on the fight against the Coronavirus disease

By Bernabas Shiferaw
May 27, 2020

While all the attention in the health sector is directed to controlling the spread of the Coronavirus, other recurring epidemics are breaking out more severely than usual in different parts of Ethiopia. 

A Malaria epidemic has broken out in 25 districts in the Amhara region. Cholera had already occurred (for about a month now) around South Omo, Southern Ethiopia. In Diredawa and other parts of Eastern Ethiopia, there is fear of malaria and Chikungunaya outbreaks. 

The Amhara Public Health Institute has reported that this year, the number of malaria cases in the region has shown a 70 percent increase compared to last year. More than 411,000 cases have been registered. Last year’s number was 238,000. The cases are prevalent all over the region. The trend shows that every year, 166 out of 167 districts in the region report malarial cases. 

Mr. Amare Desta, an expert in the malaria department of the institute explained, in an interview with Deutsche Welle (DW), the nature of the recurring malaria epidemic in the region. The epidemic happens twice a year. The first one breaks out between September and December. The second epidemic mostly breaks out between April and June. The April-June outbreak is normally lighter than the September-December one. But this year, the number of cases reported in the April-June season has unusually increased. 

Mr. Amare has mentioned reduced efforts on the part of the community to prevent the disease as a factor behind this increase. He said that the reduction in the number of malaria patients reported in previous years has caused neglect among the community concerning preventive measures. And although there is the alternative of using chemicals to prevent the disease, the chemicals have proved too expensive to cover the whole region. 

Malaria has also broken out in the South Omo zone of Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples region – a region which is also affected by a cholera epidemic. The outbreak had reached a peak about a month ago. Although it has been decreasing, it is still not completely under control. Mr. Amare, an official from the health bureau of the region,confirmed the  problems regarding the spread of the disease. 

There is also a fear of combined outbreaks yet in another part of the country. Reports coming out of the town of Diredawa and its surroundings show that there is a fear of malaria and Chikungunaya outbreaks. 

The occurrence of the corona virus and the lack of preparedness by the health sector to prevent and control its spread have diverted the attention of the entire health sector away from other serious health problems that are threats to public health. 

People have avoided going to health centers and hospitals for fear of contracting the Coronavirus, especially where there is a lack of protective materials in health institutions. 

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