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Malawi’s Delicate Balance between Protection of Life and Continuity of Learning during Cholera Outbreak

Advocates for education and health care in Malawi are criticizing the government’s decision to close schools in two cities to try to contain a cholera outbreak. The Presidential Taskforce on Coronavirus and Cholera said in a statement Monday that the suspension is applied to all primary and secondary schools in the capital, Lilongwe, and commercial hub, Blantyre. Khumbize Kandodo Chiponda, co-chairperson of the taskforce and Malawi’s minister of health, told a press conference Tuesday the decision is a result of the continuing increase in the number of cholera cases in the two cities. But Malawian education and health rights campaigners say the timing of the suspension was wrong. Hastings Moloko, trustee of the Private Schools Association of Malawi, told a press conference Monday that there is no logic in suspending learning in only two out of the 28 affected districts. Moloko said there is also no scientific evidence that cholera spreads more in schools than in homes. As of Monday, the bacterial disease, spread by dirty water, had killed more than 620 people out of 18,222 cases since the outbreak began in March.