MOZAMBIQUE is in the grip of a cholera outbreak in the wake of devastation caused by Cyclone Idai: the number of cases is doubling by the day.
More than 1000 cholera cases had been confirmed by midweek, the majority of them in the port city of Beira, where the cyclone first made landfall. Cholera causes acute diarrhoea and can kill within hours. The first death from cholera was confirmed in Beira this week.
World Vision UK’s media manager, Carey Lodge, has just returned from the city, and described how 90 per cent of it was destroyed when the storm hit. “Cases of cholera are now doubling by the day,” she said. “Though the flood waters are receding, I could see pools of stagnant water everywhere. Cholera was always likely to break out at some point in the aftermath of a disaster like this, but it is a crisis on top of a crisis.”
She said that about 135,000 people in Mozambique were now living in tented accommodation, schools, or churches, in cramped and unsanitary conditions, which put them at heightened risk of waterborne diseases.
Cyclone Idai hit three weeks ago; strong winds and floods submerged whole villages, sweeping across Mozambique into Malawi and Zimbabwe (News, 22 March). The number of deaths has so far passed 700, and hundreds more people are still missing.
A mass vaccination programme of survivors began this week, after 900,000 doses of the cholera vaccine were flown in by the World Health Organization. The vaccinations were being started in cholera hot-spots such as the city of Beira.
Josh Estey/CAREMedical workers unload bottles of water to take to villages affected by Cyclone Idai, last week
World Vision is distributing clean water and hygiene kits, and increasing chlorine levels in water to protect against waterborne diseases; other charities are setting up lavatories and water tanks.
Ms Lodge said that churches in Mozambique were also trying to aid survivors.
One survivor, Felis Nina, aged 35, who is disabled and is bringing up five children on her own, told Ms Lodge how she escaped the floodwater: “She spoke of how her neighbours came and lifted her to safety in a nearby school. She told me how God had sent people to help her, and the church had rallied round to support her family. She is now helping others.”
An emergency appeal has been launched by the Disasters Emergency Committee for the cyclone survivors, and £23 million had been raised by the beginning of the week.