Jul 27, 2017 Last Updated 2:30 PM, Jul 26, 2017

A 2017 United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) report indicates that the premature birth rate for Malawi continues to increase.

Authorities are being pressed to ensure that proper Antenatal care is provided, for premature birth rates to reduce.

The report singles out the current levels of child marriage, as the main contributor to rising premature birth rates.

It further states that in developing countries like Malawi, 14.2 million girls marry annually.

Young girls’ reproductive organs are not fully developed to embrace pregnancy and this can result in premature birth.

Complications of pregnancy and childbirth are also the leading cause of death in young women aged 15-19.

Child marriage is a global issue and most child marriages take place in rural sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.

In sub-Saharan Africa more than one third of young women are married by their 18th birthday.

There are fears that this will continue to increase the expanding youth population.

Malawi is amongst the 10 countries with the highest rates of child marriage, currently at 50%.

Commenting on the 2017 UNICEF report, the president of the Society of Medical Doctors in Malawi, Douglas Lungu, says if pregnant women attend antenatal clinics cases of premature birth can be minimised.

To ensure a reduction of premature births and early child marriages, girls need to be encouraged to stay in school, and not be encouraged at a young age to have children, when they are children themselves.  

MASM Hikes Scheme Prices

The Medical Aid Society of Malawi (MASM) has increased its medical scheme prices by 25 percent, effective the first of September this year.

Among other schemes, VIP Scheme members will be paying MK21, 000 from MK16, 800 while dependants will be paying MK18, 000 from MK14, 400.

Executive Scheme membership fee has risen from K9, 000 to MK11, 250 while dependants will move from K 8,400 to K10, 500.

Econo-plan scheme currently at MK 3,000 will be at MK 3,750.

In a statement, MASM Chief Executive Officer Sydney Chikoti attributes the increase to the pressure on its resources and sustainability brought about by the revision of the benefit package at the beginning of this year.

Chikoti mentions that the decision to implement a no short fall package has prompted some members to move from their traditional service providers like CHAM facilities or nominated General Practitioners where MASM has favourable negotiated tariffs to more expensive private hospitals and facilities.

He admits the development has led to losses in the first half of the year as claims far exceeded the contributions collected consistently every month.

Nearly 50 people have contracted cholera while attending a health conference in Kenya's capital.

The infected delegates were among hundreds who had gathered for the four day forum organised by the Ministry of Health at a Nairobi hotel on Tuesday.

They have been isolated in a city hospital, but health officials say the number of people infected may rise.

It is unclear how they caught the disease, which has led to five deaths in the past month.

Cholera is an acute diarrhoeal infection caused by ingestion of food or water contaminated with the bacterium Vibrio cholera.

Most of those infected will have no or mild symptoms but, in severe cases, the disease can kill within hours if left untreated.

In Yemen, a large cholera outbreak is fast approaching 300,000 cases, according to UN humanitarian chief Stephen O'Brien. He described it as a "man-made catastrophe" caused by both sides of the country's ongoing civil war.

In a press release on 24 May, Kenya's Ministry of Health said there had been 146 cases across the country since the outbreak began.

Some of those infected had attended a wedding at an upmarket estate in Nairobi.

As a result, authorities put in place emergency measures to try and curb its spread.

An outbreak two years ago killed 65 people across Kenya.

Health authorities are admitting that people from neighbouring countries are crossing borders to access immunisation interventions in Malawi, especially in border districts.

This has come up as the ministry of health is, from today, carrying out a Measles Rubella Supplementary Campaign.

The week-long campaign follows laboratory results which indicate that most of the cases of what was originally thought to be Measles are actually Rubella.

The vaccines are expected to reduce child mortality rate which has increased in Malawi as a result of the rubella disease.

Over 7 million children from 9 months up to 14 years will have to get measles Rubella vaccination during the measles rubella campaign which is expected to start from 12 -16 June.

Officials from the ministry of health stress that though the country has recorded a reduction in measles cases, it has however seen a rise is rubella.

Speaking to Capital FM, Spokesperson of the ministry of Health Adrian Chikumbe admitted to having the problem especially in bordering districts.

Chikumbe added that though they do make estimation based on those that are Malawian nationals they still do have people from bordering district who come into the country to access immunisation interventions.

According to Chikumbe, foreign nationals cannot be denied access to such medical services as they have the right to access such services in the interest of universal access to healthcare.

Also known as German measles, Rubella is an infection that causes a red rash on the body, and usually causes fever and swollen lymph nodes.

This disease is often mild with half of people not realising that they are sick.

A rash may start around two weeks after exposure and last for three days. It usually starts on the face and spreads to the rest of the body.

It is usually spread through air via coughs of people who are infected.

The number of children dying worldwide of diarrhoea fell by a third between 2005 and 2015, researchers have found.

The study says better access to clean water and sanitation is key, with fewer weak and malnourished children becoming infected.

New vaccines have also had a positive impact.

However, diarrhoea is still the fourth-biggest killer of children globally, with almost 500,000 a year dying before their fifth birthday.

This figure could well be a significant under-estimate because of the lack of data in sub-Saharan Africa, where most cases occur.

Diarrhoea is also indirectly responsible for large numbers of deaths, through exacerbating the effects of other diseases, such as pneumonia and measles.

The US researchers, who analysed data from the new Global Burden of Disease study, found well over a third (42%) of deaths happen in Nigeria and India.

Diarrhoeal diseases, such as rotavirus and cholera, are spread by water contaminated with faeces. They are preventable and treatable.

"Diarrhoeal diseases disproportionately affect young children," said lead author Dr Ali Mokdad, from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington.

"Despite some promising reductions in mortality, the devastating impact of these diseases cannot be overlooked."

While deaths from diarrhoea have dropped by just over 20% overall, and 34% in children, the rate of infection has been falling far more slowly.

For children it dropped by just over 10% between 2005 and 2015.

Of all the diarrhoeal diseases, rotavirus remains the biggest killer of under-fives, according to this study.

But death rates for the disease were down by 44% in 2015.

The researchers attribute much of this to a relatively new vaccine.

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