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By David E. Hubler
Contributor, EDM Digest
It’s been two weeks now since a giant cyclone with winds of 150 miles an hour destroyed portions of Zimbabwe, Malawi and Mozambique’s port city of Beira. And now, Mozambican officials are dealing with an outbreak of cholera.
According to the Associated Press, 139 cases of the disease have been reported since the first five cases were confirmed earlier this week.
Nearly 1 million vaccine doses were rushed to the region as health workers improvise treatment space for victims, AP reported.
In confirming the initial five cases of cholera, Mozambican senior health official Ussein Isse predicted that the disease “will spread. When you have one case, you have to expect more cases in the community.”
Seven clinics have been set up in Mozambique to treat cholera patients and two more will be ready soon, David Wightwick, a senior member of the World Health Organization’s response team in Beira, told AfricaNews.
“We will start a vaccination campaign as soon as possible next week,” Wightwick added.
As a result, the relief effort focus has turned to “preventing or containing” the cholera outbreak, which could soon include malaria, AfricaNews said.
In addition to cholera, area health workers are dealing with about 2,700 cases of acute watery diarrhea.
As of March 26, the death toll from Cyclone Idai had risen to 468 in Mozambique, a disaster management official told AfricaNews. That brought the number of deaths in the three East African nations to 713 on Wednesday, with many more people missing.
Soon after the cyclone struck, Mozambique president Filipe Nyusi went on state radio and said, “If more than 1,000 lives have been lost, we won’t be surprised.”
3,000 People Rescued but Death Toll Could Rise Sharply
Mozambican Land and Environment Minister Celso Correia said 3,000 people had been rescued, but rescue workers continue to find bodies and the death toll could rise sharply. “Our biggest fight is against the clock,” Correia told a news conference.
Mozambique Third Most Vulnerable African Nation to Weather-Related Disasters
Mozambique ranks third among African nations in vulnerability to weather-related disasters, behind Somalia and Madagascar, according to the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery.
Neighboring Malawi is bracing for food shortages. Agriculture Ministry spokesman Hamilton Chimala estimated that “around 420,000 metric tons of maize had been lost, representing roughly 12 percent of the country’s forecast output of 3.3 million metric tons in the 2018-19 farming season.”
As AfricaNews noted, “Impoverished Malawi is regularly hit by food shortages, so the damage to the country’s staple grain is a cause for concern.”
The Zimbabwe government put the death toll from the cyclone at 179 with about 330 persons unaccounted for and 16,000 households displaced. The UN migration agency, however, counted 259 deaths.