Martina Schwikowski, International Federation
Mozambique has been affected by a cholera outbreak that hit several areas. “Cholera is spreading to eight provinces rapidly. The Tete province is the most affected. It is flood-related and about 20 people are getting sick per day,” says Ernestina Jama, the Mozambique Red Cross Society’s health-coordinator. “A health technician is working there now to support the volunteers,” she adds. These volunteers are carrying out door-to-door visits to educate people, hand out medicine and tablets for water purification. But despite all efforts, the situation is worsening. In Mutarara district, 825 cases have been reported and 14 people have already died.
Out of eleven provinces in the country, cholera has spread to Zambezia, Tete, Sofala, Manica Province, Cabo Delgado, Gaza, Maputo and Maputo City Province. Countrywide 48 people died and a total of 4452 people have been infected.
When the outbreak started in Mozambique in October, 100 cholera cases were reported daily in some provinces. In Maputo province and in the capital province itself 80 cases needed urgent treatment on a daily basis. “That number has gone down to two people per day,” says Jama. “But in Cabo Delgado the epidemic is increasing.”
The Ministry of Health set up 71 treatment centres in all affected areas where chlorine and oral re-hydration medicine is provided. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has delivered information and materials, but according to the Mozambique Red Cross Society (CVM), the situation is still not under control. The displaced population is sheltered in over-crowded tents and faced with water and sanitation problems.
The CVM appealed for US$ 99,749 to address the cholera crisis and has so far received a cash donation of US$ 32,000 USD from the French Embassy in Maputo. “We need more financial support and also more incentives for 575 volunteers working hard on the ground to help people,” she said. In Maputo 60 volunteers are involved in daily first aid action and house visits before referring patients to the treatment centres.
In the flood-affected provinces, the CVM is facilitating prevention and diarrhoea monitoring, while in other cholera-affected areas less awareness campaigns have been carried out.
Cholera has also spread across the border to neighbouring Zimbabwe where the National Red Cross Society is also fighting to prevent new cases which occur on a daily basis in the two provinces of Mashonaland Central and East.
Reports indicate that traders crossing the Mozambique border to conduct informal business may have been infected with the disease, but also the contamination of water in flooded areas contributed to the outbreak in Zimbabwe which resulted in 92 cases of cholera and 9 people losing their lives.
In Mashonaland Central, the two districts of Mt Darwin and Centenary are affected. In Mudzi District, in Mashonaland East, the outbreak was first reported at Kotwa Growth Point Hospital and currently 35 people have been admitted and are been treated.
The Ministry of Health and Child Welfare set up a treatment camp at the main district hospital and also MSF Holland assisted in constructing a separate treatment centre so that the numbers of re-infections could be reduced. Initially the admission rate was high, but figures have dropped to a few cases a day.
“The situation is getting better. Even if Zimbabwe Red Cross has been providing the hospital with relief material like water makers and latex gloves, there is a need to improve water and sanitation,” says relief-coordinator Pauline Ngoshani.
Some villagers do not have pit latrines. Boreholes, water pumps are broken and they only have poor supply of clean water. The current situation also affected the overall health conditions in villages and most likely contributed to the cholera outbreak. “If people do not have any other choice they go to unsafe water sources,” concludes Pauline Ngoshani.