Mozambican and international health workers raced yesterday to contain the outbreak of cholera in the cyclone-hit city of Beira, where the number of cases of the disease has jumped to 517 and the first death has been recorded.
“There are seven emergency cholera treatment centres operational in Beira and two more being set up. Two additional centres are being set up in Nhamatanda,” said David Wightwick, the World Health Organisation’s team leader in Beira.
Mozambican workers have restored clean tap water to parts of Beira, a city of 500,000, although large areas of the city still do not have access to sanitary water, he told The Associated Press while visiting a water treatment centre.
“A vaccination campaign against cholera, with 900,000 doses of the vaccine, will start Wednesday,” said Mr Wightwick. “That should blunt the edge of this outbreak.”
More than two weeks after Cyclone Idai hit Beira and swept across central Mozambique, about 98,000 people are in camps for displaced and “living under canvas”, he said.
“Cholera is our most immediate challenge,” said Mr Wightwick, who added that getting adequate nutrition to the population and battling other diseases like malaria are also priorities.
In addition to Mozambican medics, health workers from Portugal, Denmark, Italy and China are helping respond to the crisis.
Cases of cholera, an acute diarrheal disease, have risen dramatically since the first five cases were confirmed last week. Cholera is spread by contaminated water and food. It can kill within hours but is relatively easy to treat.