Cholera: Next Disaster for Mozambique’s Cyclone Idai Survivors

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Aid workers responding to Cyclone Idai in Mozambique are racing to prevent a second humanitarian crisis with more than 1,000 survivors now confirmed to have cholera.

In the last several days cholera cases have been doubling every day. So far one person has died. The international community is now focused on preventing its spread, with cases spiking in Beira, a city of more than 500,000 people. Beira is responsible for the vast number of the current 1,052 cholera cases.

World Vision’s focus is on preventing the spread of cholera. Buckets and jerry cans are being distributed to hundreds of families 120km outside of Beira. This is part of an ongoing effort to supply tens of thousands of people with basic emergency kits. We are handing out jerry cans to enable the safe storage of water, and toilet latrine slabs that improve the conditions of pit latrines, which are the most common method of toilet use in Mozambique.

Charmaine Consul Gonçalves, World Vision senior programme officer, said: “World Vision and others are galvanising our efforts to prevent the spread of cholera getting out of control. We are working with UNICEF to get out cholera prevention kits which include soap, water purification tablets and materials that will educate people about how to avoid cholera.”

We are also part of joint efforts to advocate with authorities to increase chlorine levels in tap and trucked water, as well as installing water treatment units.

Other agencies and the government are focused on the medical treatment of cholera in special medical centres. Projections indicate that as many as 23,000 people could become infected if action is not urgently taken. Some 900,000 oral vaccinations are due to be administered to survivors, according to the World Health Organization.

“Children are especially prone to infection as they play among dirty water and may not have access to water to clean their hands after going to the toilet. They may also be defecating outside. Once infected cholera causes repeat cycles of watery diarrhea, vomiting and an increased heart rate. Children can easily die from dehydration unless treated quickly,” said Ms Consul Gonçalves.

The post-cyclone conditions in and around Beira are a potential breeding ground for cholera. Thousands of people are living in displacement sites in schools, health centres, churches and other buildings. These are crowded with children and adults. Cholera spreads when water and food is contaminated by faecal matter.

Ms Consul Gonçalves said: “Past experience of humanitarian disasters, including in places like Haiti, have shown how quickly cholera can spread and the impact it can have on children. Following any disaster where people are living in very rough conditions and without proper shelter and nutrition, people’s physical condition is already weakened making them even more susceptible to potentially deadly diseases.”