February 25, 2013
Recent floods devastated the city of Chokwe in Mozambique’s Gaza Province, putting the main hospitals and health structures out of action and leaving people in urgent need of medical care. In response, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is bringing in extra staff and medical supplies and working to get the health facilities up and running again.

The wards of the city’s 120-bed referral hospital in Chokwe—225 kilometers [about 140 miles] north of Mozambique’s capital, Maputo—were deluged with mud and floodwater. MSF teams are working to reopen a section of the hospital, and hope that 10 to 15 beds will be ready for patients soon.

“More and more people are coming back to a devastated city where public services have not yet been reestablished,” says MSF Country Director Reveka Papadopoulou. “Our teams have witnessed an increased number of severely ill patients who need hospital care.”

MSF staff has provided more than 10,000 medical consultations since arriving in Chokwe on January 30, 2013. “We are seeing an average of 700 patients per day, and sometimes more,” says MSF Nurse Amelia Macuacua. “We are referring 15 to 20 severely ill patients to other hospitals in the district [that] are functioning but are already overloaded.”

“It took time for the relevant parties to acknowledge the urgent health and sanitation needs,” says Papadopoulou, “but we are now confident that we will see the rural hospital in Chokwe open for patients very quickly. Our support will include providing general health care and essential medical supplies. We will also work on getting the basic infrastructure—like sanitation and electricity—up and running.”

More than 3,300 of MSF’s medical consultations so far have been for HIV-positive patients in need of antiretroviral medicines or counseling, with 900 for people suffering from malaria as well.

MSF teams are closely monitoring possible outbreaks of disease in the district. “We are seeing an increase in malaria cases at this point,” says Emergency Field Coordinator Dr. Maria-Celeste Edwards. “There is a clear upward tendency compared to last year, but we are not yet sure how serious this hike is. The elevated numbers could be partly related to the intensified surveillance.”

MSF is reinforcing its capacity to respond, with more staff on their way to Chokwe and extra medical supplies expected to reach Gaza Province this week.

MSF has been working in Mozambique since 1984. The medical organization provides antiretroviral treatment to 33,000 HIV-positive patients in the country.