WHO scales up health response to Cyclone Idai in Mozambique

World Health Organization

Beira, 10
April 2019 – The World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director for
Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, took a first-hand look at response efforts to save
lives and protect health for the people in Beira, the city hardest hit by
Cyclone Idai in Mozambique.

Regional
Director for the WHO African Region visits disaster zone

“The next
few weeks are crucial and speed is of the essence if we are to save lives and
limit suffering,” said Dr Moeti after visiting devastated communities and witnessing
the damage to health centres caused by the cyclone.

To expand
the emergency response, WHO has deployed experts, including epidemiologists,
logisticians and disease-prevention experts, to build a 40-strong team.

Restoring
regular health services is equally imperative as mitigating the spread of
cholera and other diseases, Dr Moeti stressed.

“I saw the
paediatric ward of Pontagera Health Centre had been completely destroyed, the
roof had been torn off and the equipment and supplies ruined by water. We must
do everything we can to protect the people of Mozambique from a disease
outbreak or other health problems caused by lack of access to essential
services,” she said.

WHO is
helping to restore primary care services so that facilities can deliver essential
services, including immunization, basic treatment for common illnesses, acute
malnutrition and maternal care while ensuring the ongoing supply of medications
for people living with HIV, tuberculosis or diabetes.

Also of
concern, Dr Moeti emphasized, are the health workers whose own families and
homes have been affected. WHO is working to support them in their health care
roles as well as rehabilitating the health facilities where they work.

On her visit
to Beira, Dr Moeti visited the Central Hospital, a general health centre, a
cholera treatment centre and two field hospitals set up by emergency medical
teams from Italy and Portugal. She also visited a health clinic in a settlement
camp where more than 1000 people are living temporarily.

Planning for
cholera has been one of the Organization’s top priorities in its support to the
Ministry of Health for this emergency. WHO has deployed cholera specialists and
supported the deployment of supplies, including life-saving intravenous fluids,
diagnostic tests, oral rehydration solution and other medical supplies to
support cholera treatment centres.

As of this
week, 500 beds are now open in seven cholera treatment centres across the
affected area, with plans to boost the capacity significantly to cope with an
expected increase in cases. WHO is training 30 health workers on case
management for cholera and on setting and monitoring standards and protocols in
those centres.

More than
900 000 doses of oral cholera vaccine from the global stockpile for
emergency use are due to arrive in Beira tomorrow (Tuesday 2 April), and the
Government and partners, including UNICEF, Federation of the Red Cross,
Médecins Sans Frontières
and Save the Children, are working around
the clock to start the vaccination campaign on Wednesday, 3 April.

As of 1
April, a total of 1052 cases of cholera have been reported by the Ministry of
Health, and more are expected due to the increasing numbers of people coming to
health centres with acute watery diarrhoea.

At high risk
of cholera infection are more than 128 000 people living in temporary shelters
with unsafe water supply and poor sanitation – a high-risk environment for the
spread of cholera, dysentery and other diarrhoeal diseases.

WHO is also preparing for increased cases of malaria, following the floods in this already high-risk zone. More than 750 000 insecticide-treated bednets are on the way for distribution in the affected areas. Supplies of rapid diagnostic tests and antimalarial drugs are being directed to the area.

WHO is
supporting the setting up of an early warning disease surveillance system for
the rapid detection of disease outbreaks. It is also working with national
authorities to boost laboratory capacity and ensure that rapid diagnosis tests
are available.

WHO estimates the funds required for the health response for the next three months is around US$ 40 million. The WHO Contingency Fund for Emergencies has allocated US$ 4.6 million to support the response thus far.

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