Cholera and widespread destruction as second cyclone hits Mozambique

Mozambique 2019 © Mohamed Osman Ali/MSF

New York/Maputo—Cyclone Kenneth, which hit Cabo Delgado province in northern Mozambique just five weeks after Cyclone Idai caused widespread destruction, has brought extensive damage and flooding to towns and villages in the direct path of the storm, said the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) on Sunday. A cholera outbreak was officially declared in the region on May 2, and rains are still continuing, with large areas flooded or at risk of flooding. 

MSF is supporting the Ministry of Health by providing materials such as tents, water, and sanitation equipment for a cholera treatment center in Pemba and is also preparing to respond to cholera or cholera-like symptoms and support the health infrastructure in Mecufi. MSF will provide tents and medical equipment to build a temporary cholera treatment unit with a 10 to 15 bed capacity, said Danielle Borges, MSF project coordinator in Pemba.

”We have two essential goals now: saving the lives of severely sick patients and containing the outbreak,” said Borges. “We need to isolate and treat sick people so they recover, and so that they do not contaminate others. We need to make sure that people stop using infected water, and we should do all we can to prevent people from getting sick.”

MSF launched an emergency response following Cyclone Idai and has moved teams to Cabo Delgado to respond in several localities of the province. These teams joined another small MSF team already present in Pemba that started working on water and sanitation activities there in February 2019. Together, they began a rapid assessment of the scale and nature of needs in several areas affected by Cyclone Kenneth. Due to logistical constraints such as floods, broken bridges, and muddy roads, some areas are very difficult to reach.

The cholera outbreak was officially declared on May 2 by the health authorities, with 25 cholera patients reported in Pemba and five in Mecufi district, to the south of Pemba, so far. A cholera vaccination campaign is being planned by the authorities. 

“The impact of two cyclones in such a short space of time is devastating,” said Borges. “It is a hard blow for the country, which had only just started recovering from the first one.”

In Macomia town, to the north of Pemba, the health center is badly damaged and therefore not currently operational. MSF set up outpatient activities as well as mother and child health services in a tent outside of the damaged building in order to provide medical care to this community. The health center will be rehabilitated. 

“I have lost almost everything,” said Carlitos Limia, a resident of Pemba’s Cariacó neighborhood. “I have to rebuild my house that was destroyed by the heavy rains and don’t know where to start. I’m staying with my family for the moment. We are many in the same house and there is almost no room for everyone.”