Scabies Outbreak in Rural Malawi

Belita Milanzi at Orant's Mobile Outreach Clinic

On a weekday in the scorching heat of November, small groups of school-going children played outside. Modester Nyirenda, a mother to one of the children, said, “They stopped going to school last week because of a scabies outbreak. Classes are always congested. Students are afraid of contracting scabies from their friends.”

Scabies is one of the most common skin diseases in Malawi’s rural communities. It’s caused by a microscopic mite. The mite burrows into the upper layer of human skin where it lays its eggs. This causes intense itching and a skin rash. While scabies is most common in young children, it can affect adults as well. And it’s highly contagious. If left untreated, scabies can spread to the whole family and even village. 

The Covid-19 pandemic has greatly affected Malawi’s financial and education systems. We’re now facing the additional burden of a scabies outbreak. The outbreak has reached both rural and urban areas. Many children have quit school in fear of either being stigmatised or contracting the disease. Luckily, scabies is not as deadly as Covid-19 or malaria. But it is unpleasant. 

“I haven’t been able to sleep for two weeks,” said Belita Milanzi from Sopo Village in Kasungu. “I spend the whole night scratching.”

At Orant’s Mobile Outreach Clinic, Belita received treatment. Clinicians prescribed benzyl benzoate ointment with instructions to apply it to the whole body. All Belita’s household members also received treatment, even those who hadn’t shown symptoms yet. To further prevent the spread, clinicians instruct households to wash all cloths and linens with hot water.

“I’m sure I will now finally have a good night’s sleep,” Belita said. 

Orant is working tirelessly to prevent the spread. Our Mobile Outreach Clinic gives daily health talks on scabies. We cover what causes it, how it spreads, and how it can be treated.

Learn more about our healthcare programs here

The Orant Journal