As the number of COVID-19 cases in Mozambique recently surpassed 250--with cases confirmed in all provinces--there is a continued alert for the spread of the disease in resettlement sites, which host over 100,000 people were displaced by 2019's twin cyclones Idai and Kenneth.
Recent COVID-19 Preparedness Assessments in Resettlement Sites for central and northern Mozambique by IOM Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM) indicate that actions for COVID-19 prevention have been conducted, including installation of hand washing stations and sensitization of residents. Nonetheless, there remain limited access to health facilities and personal protective equipment as well as a lack of isolation spaces.
"The identification of COVID-19 cases in the vicinity of resettlement sites presents a serious risk to these communities," said IOM Mozambique Officer in Charge Dr. Laura Tomm-Bonde.
"Residents of resettlement sites are especially vulnerable; they are living in temporary shelters where social distancing is difficult, and they have limited resources to implement recommended prevention measures," she added. "We must urgently work together with the Government of Mozambique and humanitarian partners to improve the condition of shelters and health services to protect families and prevent spread of COVID-19."
As of 1 June, 254 cases of COVID-19 have been identified in Mozambique; this includes 145 cases in the northern province of Cabo Delgado where thousands of families remain displaced more than a year after Cyclone and Kenneth.
Mozambique is on Level 3 Alert - including restrictions on gatherings, commercial activity and closure of many border points. Some neighboring countries have higher COVID-19 case numbers: over 32,000 in South Africa, over 500 in Tanzania, and over 1,000 in Zambia, which raises concern near border areas.
"We are already working at full capacity to address basic health needs. Additional resources are required for health authorities to respond to COVID-19. The need for personal protective equipment is at the top of our priorities, to ensure that health professionals can approach their patients without fear," said Dr. Assane Abdala Chamucha, Chief Medical Officer, Sofala Province Department of Public Health.
In Cabo Delgado and Nampula, nearly 6,500 residents are sheltered at five resettlement sites established following Cyclone Kenneth. Site assessments indicate that actions for COVID-19 prevention have been conducted, hand washing stations have been installed and information and education of residents on prevention measures conducted. However, none of the sites have easy access to a health centre or isolation space. Only one site reported having access to personal protection supplies such as face masks.
In the 72 resettlement sites in the central region, Sofala, Manica, Zambezia and Tete, where over 95,000 individuals reside, action has been taken for prevention and information sharing at 90% or more of sites, with support from Government of Mozambique and Health Department. A reported 47% of sites have new hand washing stations, and 17% have personal protection supplies, but there are no isolation spaces yet. This builds on an earlier COVID-19 assessment report in May, and demonstrates preparation steps taken.