Cyclone flooding survivors face risk of cholera outbreak, food shortages, World Vision warns

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Contact: Rachel E. L. Wolff
Sr. Director, World Vision News Bureau
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Maputo, Mozambique (January 31, 2012) — World Vision has started distributing water purifiers in some of the areas hit by heavy rains and storms in the past week, amid fears of a cholera outbreak. No cases of the disease have thus far been reported, but there are accounts of alarming episodes of diarrhea in some communities. Mozambique has experienced outbreaks before of cholera, a highly contagious waterborne disease that can kill in mere hours if not treated.

"Prevention is the best remedy," says Claudio Jamal, head of World Vision's emergency unit in Mozambique. Other preventative activities are currently ongoing, including community awareness and education.

The fact that Mozambique is still midway through its rainy and cyclone seasons means the numbers of affected people could go up in the weeks to come. Scores have been killed in the provinces of Zambezia and in Gaza, where thousands of houses, hundreds of classrooms and entire crop fields have been partially or totally destroyed. An estimated 125,000 people have been affected. In Zambezia Province in particular, the large geographic area and challenges of accessibility are slowing relief work.

Gisla Dewey, World Vision's national director in Mozambique, warned that "we need to act swiftly to mitigate the suffering of thousands of affected children and the potential for disease outbreaks." World Vision fears the devastation of crops will lead to further food shortages in the country. An assessment conducted last November estimated that about 245,000 people were already short of food due to adverse weather conditions.

Though weakened, tropical cyclone “Funso,” formed a week ago, continues advancing southward and will affect weather conditions along the coast and the country's capital Maputo. Rains and strong winds are expected. Another cause for concern is the fluctuating levels of a number of the country's rivers, some of which are threatening to burst their banks.

Beyond cholera prevention, Christian humanitarian organization World Vision is assisting the coordinated relief efforts with expert staff and logistical support. Dewey explained that maximizing existing staff and equipment already in place in the affected communities would be key to an efficient, coordinated response.

World Vision has worked in Mozambique since 1983 and its nearly 900 staff work alongside communities across the country to respond to emergencies and improve food security, access to education, access to safe water and sanitation, HIV and AIDS prevention, and the protection and well-being of children.

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