Aid workers race to contain cholera outbreak in cyclone-hit Mozambique

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Aid workers were on Tuesday racing to contain a cholera outbreak in northern Mozambique after a powerful cyclone contaminated water sources and damaged health clinics.

Cyclone Kenneth crashed into the province of Cabo Delgado on April 25, flattening entire villages and killing more than 40 people. More than 200 000 people are estimated to be affected.

Reported cases of cholera in the province have risen almost five-fold to 64 since the outbreak was officially declared on May 2, according to the United Nations.

Aid agency Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) said it was providing tents, water and sanitation equipment for a cholera treatment centre in the port city of Pemba, which was badly hit by the storm.
“We have two essential goals now: saving the lives of severely sick patients and containing the outbreak,” said Danielle Borges, MSF project coordinator in Pemba.

“We need to isolate and treat sick people so they recover,and so that they do not contaminate others. We need to make sure that people stop using infected water, and we should do all we can to prevent people from getting sick.”

Cholera is an extremely virulent disease that causes severe acute watery diarrhoea due to the ingestion of contaminated food or water, says the World Health Organization. It can take five days for symptoms to show and can lead to death if untreated.

Kenneth struck while Mozambique was still struggling to deal with the impact of Cyclone Idai, which hammered the country’s central region just six weeks earlier.

Idai destroyed the port city of Beira and caused devastating floods and leaving health officials and international aid agencies battling cholera. The cyclone killed more 1 000 people across Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe.

It was the first time on record that two powerful storms had hit the southern African country in such a short space of time.

The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs(OCHA) said at least 19 health facilities were hit by the cyclone and water and sanitation facilities damaged, heightening the risk of water-borne disease.

“From our previous experience responding to Cyclone Idai which struck Mozambique in March 2019, we anticipated such a situation to happen,” said Daw Mohamed, Humanitarian Director for CARE International.

“We have already mobilised hygiene kits and sanitation supplies, which will be in the affected districts imminently. However, the needs remain more than we can handle so massive support is required in funds, expertise and resources.”