Mozambique: Cyclone Death Toll Still Rising

The World Heath Organization took a delivery of oral vaccines in advance of a mass vaccination campaign.

Maputo — The confirmed death toll from cyclone Idai, which struck central Mozambique on 14 March, now stands at 518, according to figures issued on Monday by the country's relief agency, the National Disasters Management Institute (INGC).

This is an increase of 17 confirmed deaths on the previous figure of 501, issued on Sunday. The number of people known to have suffered injuries has risen from 1,523 to 1,641. As communications are re-established across the entire area affected by the cyclone and subsequent floods, so more accurate information is reaching the INGC.

The INGC also now has a better picture of the devastation caused to agriculture. It puts the total area of crops flooded at 711,155 hectares.

Meanwhile, an epidemic of cholera is continuing to spread in the cyclone-devastated city of Beira, but few cases have been reported from elsewhere in Sofala province.

According to Ussene Issa, the National Director of Medical Care, cited in Tuesday's issue of the independent daily "O Pais", from 27 to 31 March a total of 1,052 cases of cholera were diagnosed in Sofala, of which 959 were in Beira. Only one of these victims, a one year old child, died.

There were 87 cases in Nhamatanda district, six in Dondo, and none at all in Buzi - even though much of this district was under water for several days at the height of the flooding. The great majority of those diagnosed have been treated and sent home, so that on Monday only 96 people remained in the cholera treatment centres.

Currently there are nine cholera treatment centres and 12 field hospitals in Beira, Nhamatanda, Dondo and Buzi. The field hospitals are taking over from health centres that were severely damaged by the cyclone. They are providing primary health care and maternity services. Five of them offer emergency and laboratory services and an operating theatre.

To prevent further spread of cholera, the Health Ministry has been taking samples from the sources of drinking water in all neighbourhoods that have reported cholera cases. The water purifying agent, sold under the commercial name "Certeza", is being distributed to make drinking water safe, and efforts are under way to mobilise communities to improve hygiene.

On Wednesday, a mass cholera vaccination campaign is due to start. It will last a week, and the health authorities hope to administer the oral vaccine to 880,000 people over one year old in Sofala.

On Monday, the director for Africa of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Matshidiso Moeti, visited Beira, and said he was shocked at the level of damage caused by the cyclone to health units, notably Beira Central Hospital and the Ponta Gea Health Centre.

Moeti said it was clear that Mozambique will need the support of its international partners to restore the health network, and to ensure control of diseases such as cholera and malaria.

Despite the cyclone, the access channel and the mooring quays at the port of Beira remain safe for shipping, according to the National Institute of Hydrography and Navigation (INAHINA). To assess possible damage, an INAHINA team carried out a post-cyclone survey of the port area to assess conditions of navigability. The team found no danger to shipping.

Along the length of the port access channel, no obstacles were found "apart from the sandbank existing on the Macuti curve", said an INAHINA statement.

A spokesperson for the port, Rui Massuanganhe, cited by the online edition of "Freight and Trading Weekly", said "The port sustained only limited damage as preparations were made in advance to protect all equipment, machinery and cargo. No full containers were damaged as they were stacked low or in pyramid shape. The gantry cranes withstood the storm well thanks to extensive tie down efforts before the storm."

The terminal's information and communication systems were switched off and relocated to safe areas as a preventative measure, he added. Emergency repairs have brought the fuel and bulk grain terminals back into service.

"In spite of the humanitarian crisis that is still unfolding, the Beira Corridor is working normally again and has resumed its role of connecting Malawi, Zimbabwe, Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo to the world," said Massuanganhe.

The pessimistic forecast that landlocked countries would switch their trade from Beira to the Namibian port of Walvis Bay have proved unfounded. The disruption to traffic at Beira only lasted a week.

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