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Malawi Health Issues

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Malawi Health Issues

We are thinking of travelling to Malawi in August. Our son went there last year to source some coffee for his business. He was so impressed he plans to return for a holiday with his wife and two young children in August. He would like us to join them for a few days in the Thylo region at Satemwa on the plantation and a few days by the lake using private hire cars. Having read the Bradt guide however, I am really worried about health issues, malaria,bilharzia, dengue, stomach ailments etc. and crime out there. We will be travelling with our son who has special needs, he is 28 but very slight, short build and can only eat pureed meals. We have been with him to Cuba, Australia, South Africa without any problems but as my other son says Malawi is "raw Africa". We would love to go and would appreciate any advice. We are keen travellers.

Sheffield, United...
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1. Re: Malawi Health Issues

Hi, This is typical of the type of hype that many "travel advice" sources give.

If you look at the FCO web site, Malawi is a country that has some of the least problems to consider. If you took notice of all the advice no one would visit Kenya for instance. As is so often the case these days, these advice forums seem to feel that it is necessary to cover their a***s

The main worry of course is malaria, but this is applicable to most of Southern Africa, as well as many other places on the earth. With proper prophylaxis, and taking all the recommended precautions, the chance of becoming infected is very small. Most of the returning holidaymakers in the UK with Malaria have taken no precautions. In over 20 yrs of visiting Malawi at least once a year I have had no problems with malaria.

Bilharzia is a potential problem in some areas of the lake, but if you stick to the areas advised by the lodges there is little risk. There is a school of thought that advises taking a short course of treatment after a given period on returning home, just to be on the safe side. This consists of taking a tablet for 3 days, although I personally have never done this, the meds are readily available in Malawi.

Dengue may be a theoretical risk, but for visitors is to all intents and purposes non-existent, again avoiding being bitten by mosquitoes is the answer. The main problems are likely to arise with NGO people who live out in the sticks, where they have to “live native”

Stomach ailments are a fact of life when travelling out of ones own lifestyle, usually short lived, basic hygiene; carrying OTC medication is the answer. Every time I go there I have a couple of days when I feel out of sorts in the first week, but it soon clears, there are private docs on call at all the lodges who will soon sort out any bigger problems. The basic problem is we live too sterile a life style, so cant cope when we get a change of location!

Crime is less of a problem than in virtually all of the rest of Southern Africa, again you tailor your actions to suit your situation. Take all the precautions you would at home, NEVER drive at night, mainly because you never know what you might come across.

Malawi IS Africa at its most basic, but that is for the locals, for us Mzungu’s (white man!) life is as good if not better than anywhere, embarrassingly so when you see how most Malawians live. For many visitors it can be a life changing experience.

You need all the jabs that you would normally have in the UK, Tetanus if you don’t have it. Also Rabies is endemic; so it’s worth considering, though not strictly necessary, just avoid pet dogs cats, monkeys.

Believe me, when you have been there for a while you will wonder why you got so worried. Malawi is a magical country; if I had my time again I would be there in a heartbeat. If you read the various posts you will see princess001, she started out to travel Africa from South to North, but only got as far as Malawi, fell in love with the place, and has moved there.

Go with an open mind, don’t be surprised if something doesn’t work, or happen when it’s supposed too, chill out and enjoy. It takes me at least a week to slow down to the Malawi way of life, but its just magic! I just LOVED no tele, phone calls, (not so now there is mobile coverage over much of the country) People may go hungry, but at least they can phone up about it!!! (priorities! Sigh, so much for the modern world.) Any questions, please ask,


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2. Re: Malawi Health Issues

Hey Wanderluster,

Malawi is an absolutely incredible place. I can't talk enough about it. It's one of those places you must experience in order to truly understand. I spent 2 1/2 months there the summer of 2005, traveling the country with my mom. Now, my parents are considering setting up shop!

As far as your concerns go, malaria is the one to look out for. But not to the extent of letting it foil your trip. Taking the the medicine, sleeping under nets, and just being aware of where you are (i.e. not hanging out in a swampy area) is usually enough. I did get malaria about a month into our visit, however we were "living native" in rural villages and often did not have access to mosquito nets. My mother had no problems however, and other travelers we met were doing fine with just the medication.

We never had big issues with the food either. We ate from the market where the locals ate - where you can always get tomatoes, greens, etc. - and loved the scones and fried potatoes they serve through the bus windows. The grocery stores are more than adequate if you're willing to eat plainly. I actually prefer them to American markets as you have one kind of peanut butter to choose from instead of ten!! Just have some OTC's on hand, as Ivan said.

Bilharzia is still an issue in some areas but, again, just be aware of where you're deciding to jump in for a swim. Don't swim in stagnant water that looks like it's been sitting there awhile or has a lot of plant growth. Swim in clear areas with lots of wave movement. It's easier to see the beautiful cichlids in clear water anyway :)

Crime in Malawi is not extreme in the day-to-day. I feel safer in Malawi than my hometown. There is violence, like anywhere, but most Malawians hold Mzungus in a very high respect (uncomfortably so in many instances) and you feel nothing but warmth and acceptance. Stay in groups, don't drive at night, and use your head like you would traveling to any other country and culture.

I hope that you get to go. You will have a fantastic time! And time does slow down. Don't worry about your watch - spend the extra time waiting taking in the beauty of the people and country. There's truly no other place like it. Good luck!

3. Re: Malawi Health Issues

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