More than a million people are struggling to rebuild their lives in flood-affected parts of Mozambique, many of whom are in urgent need of assistance for the basics to survive.
The response to the disaster caused by heavy flooding and Cyclone Idai will be simply enormous in scale as it wreaked havoc to the port city of Beira, home to some 500,000 people.
Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) emergency teams have started medical response activities, and the humanitarian emergency medical organisation is scaling up with its emergency response systems fully activated.
High winds and high waters have so far killed at least 447 people according to the Government and damaged or destroyed thousands of buildings - homes, schools, health centres and hospitals - across the area. Many families are left homeless and most communities are without reliable access to clean water or electricity.
“The cyclone has left a path of devastation with thousands of houses destroyed, which has left the community vulnerable and exposed to the elements,” said Gert Verdonck, MSF’s Emergency Coordinator in Beira.
“The supply chain has been broken, creating food, clean water and healthcare shortages. These levels of extreme damage will likely lead to a dramatic increase of waterborne diseases, skin infections, respiratory tract infections and malaria in the coming days and weeks.
"Furthermore, the local health system with all its regular services, such as HIV treatment and maternal healthcare, has also been disrupted.”
“The cyclone substantially damaged the city’s water supply system, resulting in many people having no access to clean drinking water," Gert Verdonck added.
"This means that they have no option but to drink from contaminated wells, some people even resorting to drinking the stagnant water by the side of the road. This of course results in an increase of patients suffering from diarrhoea. The MSF supported health centres have seen hundreds of patients with acute watery diarrhoea in the past few days."
Beyond the first batch of emergency supplies, MSF has so far sent four chartered cargo flights with emergency essentials for the response from Belgium to Beira. At least three more chartered cargo flights are scheduled for this week, departing from Belgium, Dubai and France, and continued massive aerial freight supply mobilisation will continue in the following weeks.
Given the results of several health assessments conducted in the last few days, during which MSF teams also assess the water and sanitation situation, the geographic scope of the response will expand beyond Beira town to several of the most-affected areas inland and to the south of Beira, in Manica and Sofala Provinces, including the hard-hit towns of Buzi and Dondo.
Update: It has been confirmed that there are outbreaks of cholera in the Mozambique city of Beira.
“Given the sheer amount of water that passed through Beira during Cyclone Idai and the volume of damage caused, it’s not surprising that there are outbreaks of water-borne diseases like cholera in the city," Gert Verdonck, MSF Emergency Coordinator in Beira said.
"MSF is already supporting the Ministry of Health to care for patients suspected of suffering from cholera in three health centres of Beira and has so far been treating more than 200 patients a day. In the coming days, we will work alongside the Ministry of Health to scale up as much as possible and provide support to more cholera treatment units as well as work to rehabilitate a larger cholera treatment centre.
"We are also in discussion with the health ministry about supporting a large cholera vaccination campaign in the area."
Médecins Sans Frontières emergency teams are helping people affected by Cyclone Idai and flooding in Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe. To support MSF’s emergency appeal, please visit msf.ie/cyclone