Malawi turns into home for rabies

By Our reporter

People of Ntcheu, Balaka and Machinga districts are at high risk of contracting rabies due to a reported shortage of drugs amid rising cases of rabid dog bites.

It has established that people from the three districts are being referred to Mangochi and Zomba hospitals, which have the anti rabies vaccine.

Balaka District Hospital spokesperson, Mercy Nyirenda, confirmed that the hospital has run out of anti-rabies drugs.

“The consignment for last month has ended. Anti-rabies drugs are expensive such that we do not buy them in larger amounts due to drug budget constraints,” Nyirenda said.

Machinga District Hospital publicist, Clifford Ngozo, confirmed that the hospital is struggling to treat victims of dog bites.

He said, as of last week, the hospital had enough stock to deal with cases of dog bites in the district.

However, Ngozo said Machinga hospital is facing an unprecedented increase in patients seeking anti-rabies drugs from other districts because most hospitals are reluctant to buy drugs from the Central Medical Stores Trust (CMST).

“Every day, we receive about 20 patients who have been bitten by dogs at our facility.

Some of these patients come from districts such as Ntcheu and Balaka. So, it is not easy to provide anti-rabies drugs to all these people,” Ngozo said.

To treat a patient, Ngozo said the hospital requires K50, 000, meaning that the hospital spends K30 million on the drugs every month.

“So, from our drug budget, it is not possible for us to have anti rabies-drugs on a daily basis. This is also the reason some hospitals are not stocking anti-rabies drugs because they are afraid of spending more money on a single drug,” Ngozo said.

He said there was need for the Department of Veterinary Services to take a leading role in vaccinating dogs, which, he said, is cheaper than treating a patient.

“The situation is serious. Some people only get the first dose because we cannot give them the drugs to administer, to themselves at home. By the time they come to get another injection, the drug is out of stock. We don’t know how it ends with them,” Ngozo said.

However, those in remote areas are unable to access treatment in the two districts’ hospitals; thereby putting their lives at risk.

On Monday morning, 32-year-old Andrea Mwagomba of Mfulanjobvu Village, Traditional Authority Chanthunya in Balaka and a five-year-old boy, whose mother has been identified as Catherine Misinde from Nsipe in Ntcheu, failed to get anti rabies treatment at Balaka district Hospital because the facility has ran out of drugs.

The two patients resorted to seek treatment from Mangochi Hospital where the drug is available.

Persons who are bitten by rabid dogs receive preventive vaccines in five doses within 28 days.
Once a person develops rabies, there is no medication for the disease.

Ministry of Health spokesperson, Joshua Malango, said Malawi has enough stocks of anti-rabies drugs at CMST.

He said there is no way a hospital can operate without the drug.

Malango further said he would establish reasons why the three hospitals are not stocking the drugs.

The three districts are among many areas which have been hit by rabies in the country.

Recently, Rumphi District Animal Health and Livestock Development Officer Harvey Kumwenda told Malawi News Agency that his office had, since January 2018, registered 464 cases of people bitten by dogs in which 23.2 percent of the people have been bitten by suspected rabid dogs.

On July 14 2018, Zodiak Broadcasting Station website reported that 22 people died of rabies in Mulanje District this year alone.

Mulanje, according to a statement released by the District Agricultural Development Office and District Health Office, has the highest number of deaths of people and dogs due to rabies as well as dog bites in the Blantyre Agricultural Development Division.

The website quotes District Animal Health and Livestock Development Officer Taurai Mbengo and District Environmental Health Officer Thomson Kajumbo as saying the figures are alarming.

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