Date: Tue, 23 Apr 2019 18:46:50 +0200
By Jack MCBRAMS

Lilongwe, Malawi, April 23, 2019 (AFP) - Malawi on Tuesday rolled out the world's first licensed malaria vaccine in a landmark campaign against a disease that each year kills hundreds of thousands of people, especially African children.   After more than three decades in development and almost $1 billion (890 million euros) in investment, the new vaccine began to be distributed in Malawi's capital Lilongwe. It will be extended to Kenya and Ghana in coming weeks.   "We have seen tremendous gains from bed nets and other measures to control malaria in the last 15 years but progress has stalled and even reversed in some areas," World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement.   "We need new solutions to get the malaria response back on track, and this vaccine gives us a promising tool to get there."

Known by its lab initials as RTS,S but branded Mosquirix, the vaccine has passed lengthy scientific trials, which found it to be safe and reduced the risk of malaria by nearly 40 percent -- the best-ever recorded. It was approved by European regulators in 2015.   But Mosquirix provides only a partial protection, which means it has to be supplemented by traditional anti-malaria tools such as insecticide-treated bed nets.   In addition, four successive doses must be administered on a strict timetable for it to work -- a relatively onerous schedule in rural Africa.   The three-country programme aims to immunise 360,000 children aged two years and under, partly to get a wider view on the vaccine's effectiveness but also to see whether the delivery process is feasible.

- Promising weapon -
The first vaccinations were administered at Mitundu Health Centre, 45 kilometres (28 miles) west of Lilongwe.    "This new vaccination is a new tool for the control and elimination of malaria in this country," Michael Kayange, deputy director in Malawi's health ministry, told AFP.   Kayange said that the vaccine had the capacity to prevent one million of the six million malaria cases recorded annually in Malawi, helping to prevent 4,000 deaths.   "So, this vaccine is a huge plus to Malawi," he said.   Mosquirix has been developed by British pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline in partnership with the PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative.   Its scientific testing including five years of clinical trials on 15,000 people in seven countries.   Scientists say if it was rolled out on a large scale it could save hundreds of thousands of lives.

The WHO believes that the new vaccine brings a key new tool in addition to mosquito nets, insecticides and drugs in the battle against a disease which kills a child every two minutes.   Malaria is spread to people through the bites of female Anopheles mosquitoes who transfer the malarial parasite when they take a blood meal.   The WHO says malaria killed 435,000 people in 2017. The number of cases climbed to 219 million in 2017, two million more than in 2016. More than 90 percent of cases occurred in Africa.   The fight against the disease has been complicated by mosquitoes building up resistance to commonly-used drugs, according to the WHO.   "Despite gains over the last decade, we have seen a stagnation in malaria control efforts in recent years," said researcher Jonathan Juliano from the University of North Carolina.   "In certain areas of Africa, we have actually seen rates of malaria infection get worse.

- 'Milestone' -
CEO of PATH Steve Davis described the vaccine's launch as a "historic milestone".   "A vaccine for malaria is among many innovations needed to bring an end to this disease," said Davis.   GlaxoSmithKline Vaccines' chief medical officer, Thomas Breuer said "delivering the world's first malaria vaccine will help reduce the burden of one of the most pressing health challenges globally".   Malawi, Ghana and Kenya were selected for the rollout because their malaria rates are high and they have a long history of use of bed nets and other preventative measures.   Despite concerns over the recent rise in malaria cases, the numbers dying from the disease has fallen nearly two-thirds since the turn of the century.
Date: Sun, 21 Apr 2019 09:55:31 +0200

Lilongwe, Malawi, April 21, 2019 (AFP) - Three people died after a landslide hit a village in the Rumphi district in northern Malawi, with at least five still missing Sunday and many others injured and hospitalised.   Rumphi police spokesperson Tupeliwe Kabwilo told AFP that incessant rains in the area led to the landslide early Saturday which washed away an entire village nestled between Mphompha Hills and Lake Malawi.   Among the dead are two boys aged 12 and 15 and a 35-year-old woman, according to police.   The missing persons, who are feared dead, include a one-year-old boy, two other boys aged six and 10 as well as two women aged 35 and 46.

A Rumphi district council official who was at the scene of the disaster told AFP that the affected area was inaccessible by road and it would be impossible to mount a rescue operation.   "Huge boulders rolled from the mountain and these are the ones that cause the biggest damage and if the missing victims are buried under these rocks, then we will need an excavator to move them." said council official Wakisa Mtete.    "But there is no access by road to the area so this is an impossible task. The boulders are so big that moving them by hand is not possible," Mtete said.    He added that it was also possible for some of the missing bodies to have been washed into the lake, in which case the bodies would resurface within the next two days.

Disaster management officer Alufeyo Mhango told AFP that government ministries were preparing to step in to transport heavy duty excavation equipment over the lake as soon as the weather cleared.   "We have been informed by government ministries that we should get ready to transport the equipment. But this will depend on whether we get a large boat for that and on whether the hailstorm stops because there could be a recurrence of the landslide," he said.   According to Mhango, Police officers, soldiers and emergency personnel are on site attending to the disaster.
Date: Thu, 21 Mar 2019 22:32:17 +0100

Blantyre, Malawi, March 21, 2019 (AFP) - Heavy rains could cause a dam in southern Malawi to give way if there is no let-up, authorities said Thursday, urging local residents to take shelter.   The warning came after cyclone Idai battered neighbouring Mozambique last Friday killing 242 people    Hurricane-force winds and rains have also ravaged hit eastern Zimbabwe where over 100 have died.

In Malawi, the storm has affected nearly a million people with over 80,000 displaced, according to the WHO.   The Chagwa dam "has had one of its major embankments eroded due to heavy rains," the interior security ministry said in a statement. "(It) is likely to burst in the event of heavy and incessant rains."   The statement advised local residents in the southern African country to evacuate "in case of an emergency".
Date: Wed, 13 Mar 2019 12:11:21 +0100

Maputo, March 13, 2019 (AFP) - At least 66 people have been killed and 141,000 affected after heavy rains deluged central and northern Mozambique, the government has said as it appealed for funds to manage the crisis.   "The government has decreed a red alert due to the continuing rains and the approach of the tropical cyclone Idai, expected to reach the country between Thursday to Friday," said cabinet spokeswoman Ana Comoana.   She spoke to reporters late Tuesday after a cabinet meeting in Maputo to discuss the emergency.   The floods in one of Africa's poorest countries have already destroyed 5,756 homes, affecting 15,467 households and 141,325 people.    In neighbouring Malawi, floods have already claimed 45 lives and left over 230,000 people without shelter.   Malawi's Meteorological Department has warned of more rains and flooding in the country's south between Thursday and Sunday.

In Mozambique, 111 people have been injured, 18 hospitals destroyed, 938 classrooms destroyed and 9,763 students affected.   More than 168,000 hectares (415,000 acres) of crops were destroyed, the government spokeswoman added.   Authorities have ordered the compulsory evacuation of people living in flood-prone areas.    "Sixteen accommodation centres have been opened in the provinces of Zambezia and Tete to accommodate the displaced," Comoana said.    "The government needs 1.1 billion meticais ($16 million) to assist 80,000 families affected by the rains".   Mozambique is prone to extreme weather events. Floods in 2000 claimed at least 800 lives while more than 100 were killed in 2015.
Date: Sun, 10 Mar 2019 18:40:33 +0100

Blantyre, Malawi, March 10, 2019 (AFP) - Floods in southern Malawi have killed 30 people and left over 230,000 people without shelter, a minister said on Sunday.   Homeland Security Minister Nicholas Dausi, whose ministry is also responsible for disaster management affairs, on Sunday visited people affected by the deluges in two of the 14 southern districts affected.   He said his ministry had received reports of 30 deaths and about 238,000 villagers losing their homes since the start of the incessant downpours earlier this week.   "Their immediate needs are food, tents, blankets and chlorine to treat drinking water and anti-malaria medication," he said.  
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