The leader of Thames Water and a prominent church minister have urged Londoners to donate what they can towards an urgent aid effort to combat the worst-ever outbreak of cholera in an African country with strong UK links.
Thames Water chairman Ian Marchant and Reverend Christopher Ramsay, minister at St George’s Southall, were among the first to make donations to a campaign fronted by EMMS International, the UK’s international healthcare charity, to tackle at source the worst cholera outbreak on record in Malawi. With over 30,000 confirmed cases and 24 people from one village dying in just one day, the surge in cases has prompted a call for urgent containment measures. EMMS has so far raised £27,000 towards a £160,000 target that will ensure sanitation and safe water supply to three health centres in the country.
Reverend Ramsay says London, through Soho epidemiologist Dr John Snow, has a significant history in combating the disease.
Malawi is currently experiencing its most deadly outbreak of cholera. Since its outbreak in March 2022, the disease has spread to all 29 districts with over 1300 reported deaths and 40,000 cases. EMMS International, founded in Edinburgh in 1841, has launched an appeal to reach a target of £160,000 to help improve water sanitation and medical care.
Mr Marchant was the first to respond by donating to the appeal. He said, “I understand the importance of ensuring that the infrastructure is of a quality to ensure that people have access to safe water and sanitation. We are all familiar with urgent appeals which will keep happening, unless we start to cure problems at source. Cholera is a water-borne disease and if we can make water safe, we can help to stop the disease. By donating to EMMS International, I know that they will quickly implement work to make rural health centres a safer place to seek healthcare and stop the spread of this deadly disease.”
Reverend Ramsay, a long-term supporter of EMMS and the work they provide at the Duncan Hospital in India, made a personal donation to the cholera appeal after hearing the news. He said: “I remember being out in Soho and seeing the plaque dedicated to the epidemiologist, Dr John Snow on Broad Street. He was responsible for helping cure a cholera outbreak in the 1850s and really paved the way for how we respond to infectious diseases today. He plotted the area on a map, recording cases and noticing the well in the middle where everyone drew water from. By simply removing the handle, he was able to reduce the spread. We’re lucky to leave in a country where cholera has been eradicated. We know the cause and we know how easy a problem is to solve. That’s why I’ve chosen to support EMMS. A small amount of money can make a massive difference.”
EMMS International, based in Edinburgh for over 180 years, has been working globally since 1841 to improve health and healthcare in some of the world’s poorest communities. Its work in Malawi has been vital to the development of healthcare services and infrastructure and its most recent achievements have helped to secure sustainable solutions which tackle the challenges at source through healthcare education, sustainable energy systems and sustainable water and hygiene infrastructure within hospitals and healthcare settings. EMMS International has embarked on a mission to supply a further 14 rural health centres with safe water and sanitation.
Of the 20 rural health centres needs assessed by EMMS International, eight per cent have no access to water at all, 76 per cent of water is not tested for quality and at 23 per cent of facilities patients cannot access water to wash or drink.
Cathy Ratcliff, CEO and Director of International Programmes said,
“It’s terrible news that in this day and age, Malawi is enduring its worst cholera outbreak ever recorded. We appreciate any donations towards this aid effort and are thankful to Mr Marchant and Reverent Ramsay for their support.
“The rainy season in Malawi is adding to the urgency for action by speeding the spread of the disease, displacing people and making it more difficult to access safe healthcare services. With the risk of more heavy rains and flooding, it is essential that we act quickly to stop the spread of this deadly disease in healthcare settings. EMMS International has a long history of working with our partners in Malawi, having introduced palliative care to over 30 health facilities in recent years, including at least one in each of Malawi’s 28 districts, installing solar power in healthcare facilities, helping make our main partner hospital more financially sustainable, and training vulnerable women and girls to be tomorrow’s health professionals.” EMMS International urgently need to raise £160,000 to install clean running water and sanitation at the remaining 14 rural health centres and to improve the water supply and sanitation at Mulanje Mission Hospital. The lack of clean water is the single biggest reason that cholera kills.
Cholera is a preventable and treatable disease. Malawi’s Minister of Health, Khumbize Kandodo Chiponda, has appealed to the public to adhere to preventative and containment measures, such as the use of safe water, frequent hand washing with soap and food hygiene. She also calls on the global community to help quickly to control the outbreak and save lives.
To learn more, and to donate, visit emms.org/cholera
Case study: Mwera village borehole installed to control cholera
Malawi is currently experiencing one of the worst cholera outbreaks in two decades. The first case was reported in March 2022, in Machinga district, in the southern region of Malawi. Cases keep rising and spreading country-wide. Currently cumulative confirmed cases are 30,600 and 1,002 deaths.
Mwera village, with a population of around one thousand, was one of the first to be struck with the disease. Staff of Mulanje Mission Hospital, Mulanje District Hospital and the Water Department went to the village to assess water needs after reports that the village did not have clean water. Their assessment showed that the villagers were drawing water from two unprotected wells, and the village did not have enough latrines.
EMMS International and Mulanje Mission Hospital responded to this need in November, 2022, drilling a borehole in the village to serve some of the most affected households. The impact of this clean water is tangible, according to Mr. Gracious, a Health Surveillance Assistant (HSA) in the village. He says that before the borehole, they had 4 cholera cases, and his case investigation showed that all of them were drawing water from the dirty wells. After clean water was installed, the village had one case which health workers believe was contracted in Mozambique, when he went to visit relatives. (Mozambique is just across the river from the village.) Now the village has no cases. Clean water clearly reduces cases, as cholera cases in Malawi are increasing every day, but in this village they have drastically reduced and even been eliminated.