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‘Malawi on course of eliminating elephantiasis’

BLANTYRE (MANA) --  The Preliminary results of Lymphatic Filariasis (LF) prevalence assessment currently underway has revealed that Malawi is on a right track of completely eliminating elephantiasis among people, Ministry of Health (MoH) has said.Elemphatiasis

The MoH Deputy spokesperson Adrian Chikumbe has since attributed the development to the successful mass drug administration campaigns which the ministry has been conducting in the recent past few years.

“The LF prevalence assessment survey this year indicates that Malawi is on a good course to completely eliminate Lymphatic Filariasis very soon and as ministry of health we are very excited because this is so due to regular MDA we have been conducting in recent years,” explained Chikumbe

Chikumbe disclosed this to Malawi News Agency (Mana) ahead of this year’s Mass Drug Administration (MDA) against LF also crudely known as elephantiasis which the ministry intends to start on August 1.

He said the campaign which will be done in all the districts targets everyone including those above five years.

“Those Under-five children  but with a height of over 90 centimeteres may also be included  and apart from conventional health facilities, schools will also be utilized for the exercise to ensure that no one is left out.

“At the moment, it is starting with dissemination of elephantiasis related messages to the public through various available channels for maximum coverage,” he said.

According to the Deputy Publicist, elephantiasis is caused by parasitic worms which are routinely treated by Abendazole and Mectizane thus it is the same drugs that the ministry shall be providing during the campaign including to those with infections.

He then urged the general public to take the drugs during the campaign in order to further assist in eliminating Lymphatic Filariasis in Malawi adding: “This is the last time the ministry will be holding such a campaign.”

Chikumbe therefore commended Malawians for their cooperation throughout the past similar campaigns and during LF prevalence assessment survey which he said has started yielding positive results as stipulated in preliminary results.

The exercise is largely supported by the Malawi Government and Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine in the United Kingdom.

Ministry of health, according to Chikumbe has not yet ascertains the actual value of the campaign because the drugs are provided for a free of charge.

Lymphatic filariasis also known as elephantiasis is caused by parasitic worms of the Filarioidea type. Early signs and symptoms of the disease are similar to those of malaria which include fever and general malaise.

Parenthetically, both are transmitted by mosquitoes. There are complications that distinguish LF from malaria and other diseases which include swelling of some organs such as limbs, according to MoH.

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Lack of female condoms hampering HIV fight in Chikhwawa

CHIKHWAWA (MANA):It has been discovered that lack of female condoms in most health facilities in Chikhwawa district is greatly hampering efforts to enhance family planning methods and the fight against HIV and Aids.Condom

This was raised on Tuesday during a stakeholders’ meeting organized by the Hunger Project aimed at discussing issues to do with condom availability as well as the progress made in distributing them through some health facilities available in the district.

Chikhwawa district has over 20 health facilities and over half of the figure of the representatives from these health facilities complained that they have not received the female condoms of late.

“For example, our health facility does not have female condoms although we have sent out messages relating to the usage of the same and how they can be taken care of through health talks being conducted at our health centre as well as to sugarcane farmers.

So, with this problem we are afraid this might affect our efforts in as far as enhancing family planning methods and the fight against HIV and Aids is concerned,” said one representative from Kasinthula health facility.

Other health facilities that have not received the female condoms included Dolo, Mfera, Chapananga, Kakoma and Ngabu among others.

On his part, Hester Nyasulu who is an HIV Fellow at the hunger project advised the representatives of different health facilities to develop a spirit of booking for such resources at the Central Medical Stores where the female condoms are bought by the government.

“We have the female condoms in the country but the issue lies in our hands whereby we need to develop the spirit of booking for them where there is no supply. However, we will sit down as an office in order to rectify the problem that everyone has presented here,” he said.

Nyasulu added that as representatives of health facilities, they needed to act as marketers by telling the people especially women advantages of the female condoms so that everyone gets the right message.

“Let us all work as a team in delivering the message on female condoms at the same time we should also include others like the Community Based Organizations (CBOs) so that a larger number of people access the condoms and are imparted with the right message.

Chikwawa District Health Office Spokesperson, Felix Simbi assured communities that his office would address the challenges to ensure that both male and female condoms are available in health facilities.

The FC2 Female Condom Education Project which is being implemented in the district is being funded by Female Health Company and will run from 1st April 2014 to 30th March 2015.

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Mortuary crisis at Salima hospitals! Authorities ask well-wishers to intervene

LILONGWE (MaraviPost) -- A mortuary crisis at Salima District Hospital has forced authorities there to ask for help from well-wishers so that they help out with a new one, MaraviPost has learnt.

Three of the six cold rooms at the hospital have been down for about three months now, a phenomenon which has raised concerns on health problems, local media reported Thursday.

According to MaraviPost findings, lack of security locks have also proliferated the problem further.

Mortuary attendants are currently keeping dead bodies on the bare floor, MaraviPost learnt.

Principal Health Services Administrator at the hospital George Ziba said “his office would be attending to the problem before end of business Thursday.”

He added: “We would also like to ask well-wishers to come in as the current mortuary is tiny and small. It was constructed long time ago before the population rose in the district.”

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Why Malawian men are shunning circumcision

BLANTYRE (MaraviPost) -- Costa Selemani pronounces his first name as ‘Josa’. To A Malawian ear, his accent is hard to decipher. But he boasts to his friends that his masterly of the Chichewa language is superb. He is from Mozambique’s Milange-Sede.

Wearing a red t-shirt and black pair of trousers, Selemani broke the rules of illegal trespassing and went to Muloza Health Center in Mulanje for something that many Malawian men are unwilling to undergo: circumcision.

 He is 15 years old and a Standard Six pupil at Eduardo Modilane Primary School, Mozambique. Being the first boy in the family of five, he decided to lead by example through dragging 12 year old brother, Zeque, to the centre in search of the voluntary male medical circumcision (VMMC) which is being provided by Banja la Mtsogolo under Ministry of Health.

 He was told of the VMMC by his Mozambican peers and his grandmother encouraged him to get circumcised.

 According to the team leader of the VMMC at the health centre Chimwemwe Kapyola,  the phenomenon of Mozambican boys flocking to Muloza for circumcision has become the order of the day.

“They outnumber Malawian males in seeking the services. As of November 26, 2013, only 2 of the 31 circumcised males were from Malawi. The trend has always been like this,” he says.

The VMMC is being overseen by the Ministry of Health, with service provision offered by Banja la Mtsogolo and demand creation under Bridge II Project. The programme will run from 2012 to 2017 targeting to circumcise males from the age of 12.

It is being conducted in Mulanje, Thyolo and Phalombe but is yet to go to other districts including Lilongwe and Dedza.  The question, however, is: why is the demand higher among Mozambicans than Malawians?   

In Milange-Sede, it is fashionable to be circumcised. Selemani was one of the pressured males who decided to get the ‘cut’ in search of popularity and respect from peers.  And circumcision helps men find wives easily in the Mozambican community.

 “Most women shun away from uncircumcised men so the chances of finding a marriage partner once circumcised are high. And who wants to stay unmarried?” Selemani asks rhetorically.

He also says his peers who had been circumcised before him said it helps in reducing the risk of contracting HIV and Aids which, he says, prompted him to get circumcised.

 The three districts where VMMC is providing services are predominated with Lhomwe people who by their culture undergo circumcision while young but the circumcision is different because some of the foreskin is left while the VMMC requires removal of the entire foreskin.

 Kapyola says many Malawians are shy to go for circumcision because they think it is a source of their ridicule. If other men know that one of their peers has undergone circumcision they become a laughing stock, he says.

 “There are a lot of misconceptions that men have attached to VMMC. Some believe VMMC is a way for collecting foreskins to be sold for huge amounts of money. Others believe the nurses take foreskins to use for superstitious reasons.

“A boy once insisted to take his foreskin home and I asked him, ‘Do you want to insult the male community out there?’ I took him to a pit latrine where he disposed of it. More awareness is needed to enlighten men and boys of what happens during and after circumcision.

 “VMMC is also facing the challenge of age gaps. Most married or aged men do not want to have their penises diagnosed and circumcised in front of 12 year-olds. As such, it is only young boys, if any, who come for VMMC,” said Kapyola.

During a similar tour in Thyolo, the VMMC team had little good to say of the awareness campaigns. Thyolo health education officer Fanuel Makina says the demand creation has been bad; no wonder most men want little to do with circumcision.

 “The demand creators (Bridge II Project) usually sensitise people using megaphones. If there is wind, not many will understand what has been said.

 “Maybe they could try using traditional, political and religious leaders since they are the ones who shape people’s perception – whether they are negative or positive.

 “And people need to know that circumcision is just a supplementation for HIV and Aids prevention not the cure because a lot of men get disappointed when they later learn that circumcision is not an answer to sleeping around unprotected.

 “Men also have to be told that circumcision reduces cervical and penile cancer. This can also trigger more men to get circumcised,” said Makina.

From the studies conducted since August by Ministry of Health, 98 percent of the men that go for circumcision have an HIV and Aids testing and counseling (HTC).

 Ministry of Health spokesperson Henry Chimbali says this is a good development considering that a lot of men shun HTC while women are likely to get tested when pregnant.

 MoH’s health education unit deputy director Chimwemwe Banda says there should be special and deliberate strategies to accommodate older men in VMMC.

 She suggests having two circumcision sessions – one in the morning for the young men and another in the evening for the adults.

“As we grow, there are some challenges we face in our daily life. A man does not have the same needs as a boy that is why most men would be embarrassed to get undressed in front of juveniles.

“If a man is diagnosed with an STI during the VMMC, would the boys keep it a secret or would they go about telling everyone? Maturity levels are important when it comes to nudity,” said Banda.

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Islamic Relief Malawi donates Pharmaceutical supplies worth K10 million to Health Ministry

LILONGWE (MANA) --  The Islamic relief Organisation has donated Pharmaceutical Supplies to the Ministry of Health (MoH) worth K10 million (US$25,000) to be utilized at Machinga District Hospital and Zomba Central Hospital.Dr Jean Kalirani

The Donation took place at Kanengo Medical Stores in Lilongwe on Thursday with the Minister of Health, Dr Jean Kalilani receiving the medical consignments.

Among the medical supplies that have been donated are Multivitamins, Potasium Chloride, Shringes and Needles, Nystatin and Declofenac Sodium.

In her speech Dr Kalilani described the donation as timely considering the fact that the country has been going through drug crises.

She said the donation will greatly improve the health services in the country as the country has increasing demand of medical supplies which government alone cannot manage.

“Most of the items that have been donated here will be utilized at Machinga District Hospital and Zomba Central Hospital both at Primary and Secondary level as referral hospitals, they deserve to have medical supplies in full stock as they receive difficult cases,” she said.

She added that the MoH will create an environment for optimum operations for everyone who wishes to donate to the Ministry.

Head of Programmes for Islamic Relief Malawi, Sharif Mia said the donation came about after recognizing the shortfall of medicines in Malawians hospitals.

She said that Machinga and Zomba have been chosen because there are programmes that are running under the Islamic Relief.

In his remarks, Chief Executive Officer for Medical Stores Trust, Feston Kaupa commended government for transforming the Central Medical Stores into a public trust which has minimized cases of theft.

He however asked government to support the construction of the New Warehouse as currently the Kanengo warehouse which is a transit place for all medicines being bought from outside or donated before being transported to Regional deports as it is currently hosted in a rented property.

The Donation has been made possible by the Islamic Relief USA which is an international humanitarian organisation found in over 40 countries with the aim of fighting poverty.

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