Controlling the spread of cholera in Mozambique

In Niassa, Mozambique, MSF teams are supporting cholera care and building a community-based strategy to tackle the disease.

 MSF helps contain cholera cases after surge in country’s north

Since September 2022, Mozambique has seen a worrying increase in the number of cholera cases, particularly in the northern province of Niassa. In response, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is supporting the country’s ministry of health in providing treatment to people, reducing mortality rates, and helping to control the spread of the disease.

In Niassa, according to the ministry of health, more than 1,400 cases and 13 deaths have been reported between mid-September 2022 and January 2023 in the five affected districts: Lichinga—where the provincial capital is located—Lago, Mecanhelas, Mandimba, and Sanga.

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MSF teams are working to increase the capacity of Lichinga Provincial Hospital’s existing cholera treatment center (CTC) to 50 beds. Our teams have also supported the installation of a CTC in Meponda, a town near the provincial capital. In addition, we are running health promotion activities, carrying out hygiene product distribution and donations, conducting training for health professionals on treatment, as well as increasing infection prevention and control (IPC) measures.

Working with the community to lower rates

“The occupancy rate in the CTC in Lichinga Hospital these past weeks has always been above 15 beds and we have had up to 50 patients admitted,” said Sara Miro, MSF medical coordinator. “However, we are seeing fewer patients die over the last days.”

MSF teams are also working on a community-based strategy to reinforce hygiene measures and detect people with suspected cases of diarrhea at an early stage.

“In order to reach more people, our teams are working with existing local community groups and committees, visiting areas that have reported a high number of cases, and set up tents to treat patients in Lichinga town,” said Miro.   

Mozambique: MSF helps contain cholera cases after surge in country’s north
An MSF team makes preparations at a cholera treatment center. Mozambique 2023 © MSF

MSF teams are responding across the country

In the province of Nampula, as part of an emergency preparedness measure, we are pre-emptively helping set up a 25-bed CTC in Angoche district. In the country’s capital, Maputo, MSF has trained local health professionals on IPC.

At the national level, we have donated medical items to the ministry of health, including patient rehydration drugs, over 24,000 bottles of a water purifying solution, and 1,500 tablets of chlorine, to be used mostly in the provinces of Niassa, Zambezia, and Sofala, where cholera cases have also been reported.

In addition, we are reinforcing training and IPC measures throughout MSF’s projects in Cabo Delgado, Sofala, and Nampula provinces.

MSF teams continue to monitor the situation and remain reactive to epidemiological trends and medical humanitarian needs in the country, especially as the rainy season continues. 

MSF has been working in Mozambique since 1984. For more than 30 years, we have responded to medical and humanitarian needs countrywide.

Cholera is endemic in Mozambique. It is highly contagious and occurs in settings without clean water and proper sanitation. It causes profuse diarrhea and vomiting, and without treatment can quickly lead to death by intense dehydration. MSF has a long history responding to cholera-related needs alongside local authorities in Mozambique. From 1993 to 2000 we launched various responses to outbreaks throughout the country’s reconstruction period after the civil war. In 2004 we ran a vaccination campaign in Beira; in 2015 we provided epidemiological and treatment support in Niassa; in 2017 we supported an outbreak response and a reactive vaccination campaign in Tete, reaching 297,000 people; and, most recently, we worked to curb an outbreak of cholera in Beira in the wake of Cyclone Idai.