Cyclone Freddy: Mozambique faces cholera outbreak
Quelimane, Mozambique –
Weeks after massive Cyclone Freddy hit Mozambique for the second time, the still-flooded country faces a cholera epidemic that threatens to further devastate it.
According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, more than 19,000 cases of cholera have been confirmed in eight provinces of Mozambique as of March 27, a figure that has nearly doubled in a week.
Freddy was probably the longest cyclone ever recorded, lasting more than five weeks and hitting Mozambique twice. The tropical storm killed 165 people in Mozambique, 17 in Madagascar and 676 in Malawi. In Malawi, he is still missing more than 530 people two weeks later, and the country’s death toll could well exceed 1,200.
Freddie makes a second landing in Mozambique’s Zambezia province. In Zambezia province, numerous villages remain submerged and water supplies are still contaminated.
At a hospital in Quelimane, the capital of Zambezia province, Eduardo Sam Gudo, Jr., director of the National Institutes of Health, reported 600 new cases per day in the Quelimane district alone, but the real number is 1,000. He said it could go up to humans.
At least 31 people have died from cholera in Zambezia and more than 3,200 were hospitalized between 15 and 29 March, according to Ministry of Health data.
The Isidua district on the outskirts of the city has the highest number of cases, where most residents live in bamboo or adobe mud huts and draw buckets of water from a communal well. Cyclone-induced flooding exposed many of these wells to water contaminated with sewage overflows and other sources of bacteria. Cholera is spread through faeces and often enters drinking water.
But until the water pipes that burst in the floods are repaired, these wells are the only source of water for Isidua and the people of such communities. For now, temporary solutions are our only hope of stopping the outbreak.
Volunteers will distribute bottles of Certeza, a local chlorine-based water filter, from house to house. Each bottle should last a family for a week, but supplies are in short supply as local production struggles to keep up with demand. Gudo said that even if more supplies could be procured, there would not be enough people to distribute Certeza.
Meanwhile, health workers are struggling to treat infected people, and many clinics and hospitals have been badly damaged. “The cyclone destroyed the infrastructure here,” said Jose da Costa Silva, clinical director of the Icidua Health Center. “We are working in the undamaged part of the hospital. Some of our colleagues are working outdoors because there is not enough space for everyone.”
According to INGD, Mozambique’s disaster management agency, Freddy’s two landfalls affected a total of 80 health centers.
Southern Africa experiences cyclones from December to May, but man-made climate change is making tropical cyclones wetter, more intense, and more frequent. A natural La Niña event, now dissipating, also exacerbated cyclone activity in the region. Cyclone Freddy itself has not yet been attributed to climate change, but researchers say it has all the pertinent characteristics of a warming-induced weather phenomenon.
The cyclone that formed off the coast of Australia in early February was unprecedented in that it had a very long lifespan and crossed the Indian Ocean more than 8,000 kilometers (5,000 miles) east to west.
It followed a loop path rarely documented by meteorologists, hitting Madagascar and Mozambique for the first time at the end of February, before hitting Malawi again in March.
Restoring normal water supply in Mozambique will take time. Two weeks after the last impact of the cyclone, he still has many damaged pipelines in the inaccessible area.
“A cholera outbreak in a flooded plain with a very high water table is a ‘mission impossible’ to deal with,” Mirta Caullard, the United Nations Resident Coordinator in Mozambique, told The Associated Press. It’s a big problem, and floods are affecting critical infrastructure such as water pipes and power supplies…Repairing that infrastructure in flooded areas is another ‘Mission Impossible’.
Meanwhile, the rural areas around Quelimane face another threat. Many villages and fields are still submerged, and the humidity breeds swarms of malaria-carrying mosquitoes. In a makeshift camp for displaced people on the banks of flooded rice fields near the village of Nikoadala, 20 out of 290 residents have malaria, says local chief Hilario Milisto Illawe.
On 24 March alone, 444 malaria cases were reported in Quelimane district, but the number is much higher due to lack of access to health facilities, such as those in the camps outside Nicoadara. There are many possibilities.
Freddie’s hit just before the main harvest has exacerbated the public health crisis, jeopardizing the material livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of people. Seawater was also carried inland, threatening long-term soil fertility in areas where malnutrition was already chronic.
“All our farms are flooded. Our rice farms are destroyed. All we can do is start over, but we don’t know how to do that,” Illawe said. I was.