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Health workers fight cholera with ‘gloves and paracetamol’ as outbreak threatens Beira

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The Mozambique government is poorly prepared to tackle the spread of cholera in cyclone hit central Mozambique, despite describing an outbreak as “predictable”.

More than half of Beira’s 500,000 inhabitants are now sheltering in temporary accommodation centres and are at risk of waterborne diseases, with little or no access to sanitation facilities or clean drinking water.

Mozambican Minister of Land, Environment and Rural Development, Celso Correia, said the government is implementing an “aggressive” policy to prevent the spread of cholera, including setting up health centres in accommodation centres.

“[The cholera outbreak] was predictable because of the nature of the floods,” he said. .

However, the health centers can’t stop the spread of the disease, health worker Leonel Maguente told Zitamar News, as they don’t have access to clean drinking water or medical supplies.

There have been at least five cases of suspected cholera at the Matadouro School, in Beira’s Inhamizua neighbourhood, that is now sheltering around 700 people.

“But here there are no conditions to treat it. We don’t have a serum system, or energy, let alone drinking water… We only have gloves and paracetamol,” Maguente said.

“In these conditions there’s no doubt that cholera could be the next cyclone after Idai,” he said. “Everyone here is vulnerable.”

Filomena Pedro, who is staying in the school, has a five-year-old son, who she suspects has contracted cholera. He was in the process of being transferred from the accommodation centre to the Chingussura Health Center when Zitamar’s correspondent arrived.

“Almost all the children here are ill,” said Pedro.

Filomena said that her son’s illness started with a headache, then progressed to fevers, diarrhoea, and vomiting, and now he barely speaks or moves. “That’s why I begged for him to be transferred,” she said.

Sebastian Stampa, coordinating the UN’s relief effort in Beira, told reporters there that fighting cholera is now a priority because of the number of reported cases.

The immediate post-cyclone relief effort “only created conditions for people to have a roof over their head – nothing else,” a humanitarian relief worker told Zitamar News in Beira.

Another accommodation centre in Beira, the Vaz Elementary School in the Munhava neighborhood, is home to around 500 people, most of whom are children – and many of whom complain of sickness.

“My children complain of headaches and fevers” Julia Cupensar told Zitamar. “I’m sure it’s malaria, because it’s full of mosquitoes here, and we have no mosquito net.” Her son has been vomiting continuously, she said: “It must be cholera, because of what we have to eat and drink,” including visibly dirty water.

“A truck has brought water into this tank, and then we use it,” she said, pointing to a pit built of concrete blocks to hold water, including rainwater.

The official death toll in Mozambique from Cyclone Idai and the associated flooding now stands at 447 people and 1,528 injured – but those figures are expected to rise dramatically, and an outbreak of waterborne diseases could be a significant contributing factor.

The storm, which affected an area of 3,000 km2, destroyed 45 health centres, according to minister Correia.

© 2019, ZITAMAR NEWS. All rights reserved.

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