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By David E. Hubler
Contributor, EDM Digest
The deadly Cyclone Idai that struck the east coast of Africa on March 14 left in its wake outbreaks of malaria and cholera and thousands homeless. Critical relief efforts are underway in Mozambique, especially to stem the spread of those contagious diseases and to rebuild devastated communities.
At least 1,428 cases of cholera have been reported in Mozambique, due mostly to the flooding from the cyclone. “The cholera outbreak has grown rapidly since 249 cases were reported last week. At least 376 new cases were discovered on Tuesday, most of them in Beira city, as the infection rate continues to increase daily,” Al-Jazeera reported.
Health Officials Begin Vaccination Campaign with 900,000 Vaccine Doses
Almost 900,000 vaccine doses arrived in Beira on Tuesday and a vaccination campaign was set to begin immediately, according to Bloomberg News. The disease causes diarrhea and dehydration and can kill if left untreated.
The Mozambican government and its partners, including the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF, the Red Cross, Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) and Save the Children, were working around the clock to begin the scheduled vaccination campaign on Wednesday, April 3.
“We must do everything we can to protect the people of Mozambique from a disease outbreak or other health problems caused by lack of access to essential services,” Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, the World Health Organization’s Africa director, said in a statement Monday after touring Beira. “The next few weeks are crucial and speed is of the essence if we are to save lives and limit suffering,” she warned.
In Beira, Dr. Moeti visited the Central Hospital, a general health center, a cholera treatment center, and two field hospitals set up by emergency medical teams from Italy and Portugal. She also visited a health clinic in a settlement camp that is the temporary home of more than 1,000 Mozambicans.
The cholera outbreak is compounding what United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has described as one of the worst weather-related disasters in African history, Bloomberg News said. “More than 930 people have died in flooding across Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi, and the toll continues to rise.”
To expand its emergency response, the World Health Organization has deployed epidemiologists, logisticians and disease-prevention experts as a 40-member health team.
In addition to rebuilding primary care facilities, the WHO team is delivering essential services, including immunization, basic treatment for common illnesses, acute malnutrition and maternal care. The organization is also providing an ongoing supply of medications for people living with HIV, tuberculosis or diabetes.
Health Officials Plan for Additional Cases of Cholera and Malaria
As of this week, 500 beds were available in seven cholera treatment centers. And plans are in place to boost the capacity significantly for the expected increase in cases. In addition, WHO is training 30 health workers on case management for cholera and on setting and monitoring standards and protocols in those centers.
WHO is also preparing for increased cases of malaria. More than 750,000 insecticide-treated bed nets are on the way for distribution in the affected areas. Supplies of rapid diagnostic tests and antimalarial drugs are also being sent to the area.
WHO estimates the funds required for the health response during the next three months will be around US $40 million. So far, the WHO Contingency Fund for Emergencies has allocated US $4.6 million to support the response.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is warning travelers to any part of Mozambique that they will need to take prescription drugs before, during and after the visit.