The heavy flooding caused by the cyclone, coupled with the interruption or outright destruction of water and sanitation services, created an ideal environment for the spread of water-borne diseases like cholera in Mozambique.
The government-led and international cholera response was fast and comprehensive. Mozambican authorities prioritized the rehabilitation of Beira city’s water treatment unit, which is now once again providing clean water to much—but not all—of the city.
A large-scale cholera vaccination campaign, led by the MoH and World Health Organization and supported by MSF with vehicles and logistical, technical, and planning support, has vaccinated over 803,000 people. This went a long way towards curbing the outbreak and protecting the most vulnerable. A few people continue to fall ill with cholera or suspected cholera daily, and MSF and MoH teams continue prevention efforts. That said, in light of the reduction of cases, MSF has reduced beds at our cholera treatment centers (CTC) and we expect to close or hand over management of these facilities to the MoH by the end of April.
Cyclone Idai was the first time a major natural disaster hit a country with one of the highest HIV prevalence rates in the world (16 percent of Beira’s population is HIV-positive.) MSF’s HIV projects were initially disrupted by the storm when health centers were damaged or destroyed and when MSF staff were pulled into the cholera response.
These projects have now returned to full capacity, providing care for patients with advanced HIV, as well as to those with a statistically high risk of HIV, including sex workers and men who have sex with men in Beira. While the teams are still mapping the changes and challenges brought by the storm, it’s clear that many patients did not have access to medication for some time.
MSF currently operates a 50-bed CTC in the Macurungo neighborhood of Beira. We are still running an ambulance and referral system to ensure that patients with suspected cholera are taken to the closest treatment center. Teams continue to provide waste water management and desludging of latrines to further safeguard against any the threat of waterborne disease. To ensure the supply of clean water, we are working with the local water authority to repair the water network and cleaning, disinfecting, and repairing the wells that were damaged in the cyclone.
MSF has distributed chlorine and soap to more than 5,000 households, with another 5,000 planned in the coming week. Mental health support is also available to the community and MSF’s Mozambican staff who experienced the trauma of the cyclone.
In remote villages around Beira, MSF has distributed water and installed or improved sanitation capacity. Mobile clinics continue to operate in hard-to-reach areas.