Mozambique: health situation a major concern as number of people affected by Cyclone Favio increases

Published: 1 March 2007

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has sent an emergency response basic health care team and medical equipment to support the Mozambique Red Cross operation to assist victims of Cyclone Favio, which devastated the districts of Vilanculos, Inhassorot, Govuro and Masinga, in the south of the country, late last month. According to official figures, some 133,700 people have been affected by the storm, 73,000 of whom are in Vilanculos. At least two people have died in Inhassoro and one in Govuro. Thousands of hectares of crops have been lost and there is extensive damage to infrastructure.

The Federation team is setting up its health facility in Vilanculos, where the district hospital was severely damaged by the cyclone. Patients were moved into tents, the staff is working in a makeshift operating theatre, the hospital warehouse and all its medical supplies were destroyed, as well as the blood bank.

“Setting up a proper operating theatre and an outpatient ward is an absolute priority. This will allow us to relieve the exhausted hospital staff, many of whom have lost their homes. Our team will help them treat a growing number of patients, including injured and sick people, as well as pregnant women,” explains John Roche, desk officer for Southern Africa in the Federation Secretariat in Geneva. “An increase in the number of acute watery diarrhea cases has been noted,” he adds, “and as needs continue to grow, including diesel for the generator and medicines, the clinic may be upgraded.”

Other urgent priorities in the regions hit by the cyclone remain access to clean water, to avoid the spread of diarrhea, cholera and other water-borne diseases, as well as building latrines. Food and shelter are also essential for people who have lost their food stocks and whose homes have been destroyed or badly damaged. The Federation has already sent in several Red Cross emergency response teams, specialized in logistics, relief and telecommunications.

Hundreds of Mozambique Red Cross staff and volunteers have been mobilized, since there are now two emergency operations, one for the victims of the Cyclone Favio, and the other for people affected by severe flooding in the provinces of Sofala, Tete, Manica and Zambezia, the result of torrential rains which began in January, and caused several rivers, including the Zambezi, to burst their banks. According to the National Institute for Disaster Management, some 285,000 people are currently affected by the floods, with some 139,000 accommodated in 36 centres and camps.

The Mozambique Red Cross is working around the clock, distributing food and other relief items, as well as conducting needs assessment, in coordination with authorities and other humanitarian agencies, such as UNICEF and WFP.

Additionally, some 400 Red Cross volunteers are staffing first aid posts in 31 centres for the displaced. The International Federation’s field assessment and coordination team is continuing its support to the Mozambique Red Cross in the entire affected area.

On 16 February, the Federation launched an emergency appeal for 7.5 million Swiss francs (US$ 5.6 million, euro 4.3 million) to support Mozambique Red Cross assistance to flood victims. It is being revised to address the additional needs of those affected by the cyclone.