Mozambique cholera vaccination campaign

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Mozambique will start a cholera vaccination campaign next week in areas ravaged by Cyclone Idai, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said, after five confirmed cases were detected.

Thousands were trapped for more than a week in submerged villages without access to clean water after Cyclone Idai smashed into the Mozambican port city Beira on March 14, causing catastrophic flooding and killing more than 700 people across three countries in south-east Africa.

With thousands of displaced people moved to makeshift camps, relief efforts increasingly focus on containing outbreaks of waterborne and infectious diseases.

David Wightwick, a senior member of the WHO response team in Beira, told reporters seven clinics had been set up to treat cholera patients and two more would be ready soon.

“We have 900,000 doses of oral cholera vaccines coming on Monday and we will start a vaccination campaign as soon as possible next week,” Wightwick said.

Cholera is endemic to Mozambique, which has had regular outbreaks over the past five years. About 2,000 people were infected in the last outbreak, which ended in February 2018, according to the WHO.

But the scale of damage to Beira’s water and sanitation infrastructure, coupled with its dense population, raises fears another epidemic will be difficult to put down.

Wightwick could not confirm any deaths from cholera in Mozambique.

A Reuters reporter saw the body of a child brought out of an emergency clinic in Beira on Wednesday. The child had acute diarrhea, a symptom of cholera.

In nearby Malawi, also badly hit by flooding and heavy rains in the lead-up to Cyclone Idai, government said arable and livestock farming was badly affected and irrigation infrastructure damaged.

Agriculture ministry spokesman Hamilton Chimala said around 420,000 metric tonnes of maize was lost, representing roughly 12% of the country’s forecast output of 3.3 million metric tons in the 2018/19 farming season.

Impoverished Malawi is regularly hit by food shortages so damage to the country’s staple grain is cause for concern.

Zimbabwe’s Local Government Minister July Moyo said government would spend another $18 million to deal with the aftermath of the cyclone.

As of Wednesday, 713 people in Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi died in the tropical storm and the heavy rains ahead of it.