VOA U.N. correspondent Margaret Besheer contributed to this report.
Officials in Mozambique are scrambling to contain a cholera outbreak in the north of the country after Cyclone Kenneth devastated the area last month. Kenneth, the second cyclone to hit the country in five weeks, destroyed health clinics and contaminated the water supply.
The World Health Organization estimates there are “nearly 190,000 people in need of health assistance or are at risk of diseases in Mozambique,” U.N. spokeswoman Stephane Dujarric said.
Kenneth struck while Mozambique was still struggling to deal with the impact of Cyclone Idai, which hammered the country’s central region just weeks earlier, flattening the port city of Beira and killing more than 1,000 people across Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe.
According to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, cholera cases in Cabo Delgado Province have risen almost five-fold to 64 since the outbreak was declared last week.
Medical relief agencies such as Doctors Without Borders, known by its French initials MSF, are supporting the Ministry of Health by providing materials such as tents, water and sanitation equipment for a cholera treatment center in Pemba.
“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.” About half a million cholera vaccines are expected to arrive in the region in the next few days. (VOA)
A break in the torrential rains that followed Cyclone Kenneth has allowed aid workers to make progress in reaching remote parts of northern Mozambique.
“For the last couple of days we’ve been able to get all of the air rotations that we needed to up in the air and down on the ground into these isolated communities and start to get assistance out,” Gemma Connell, head of the U.N. Office for Humanitarian Affairs in southern and eastern Africa told reporters Friday by telephone from Pemba, Mozambique.
She said they had managed to reach more than 27,000 people with food assistance in some of the hardest hit districts from the islands and along the coastline.
Connell said humanitarians are also distributing water purification tables, tarpaulins and sheeting to the thousands left homeless a week after the powerful tropical storm slammed into the southeast African nation blowing winds as high as 280 kilometers per hour.
Cyclone Kenneth hit northern Mozambique just weeks after Cyclone Idai made landfall in the center of the country nearly leveling Beira City and killing hundreds. It is the first time in recorded history that two strong tropical cyclones have hit the country in the same season.
Connell said responders are facing two major challenges — access to those in need and funding for the relief effort. She said in any other situation the response for Kenneth would have been funded separately from the one for Idai.
“But here we are doing it six weeks after Cyclone Idai, and we are doing it in a context where we were already stretched to the bone on resources,” Connell said. “We are now operating two responses on a shoestring budget; we desperately need more money to come in.”
After Idai hit in mid-March, the United Nations appealed for $282 million to cover immediate needs in Mozambique through the end of June.
In addition to urgently trying to distribute aid, officials have now declared a cholera outbreak in the north after more than a dozen cases of the bacterial disease which causes diarrhea and is spread in dirty water were reported. Connell said a treatment center is already up and running in Pemba and more are being set up.