United Nations, Apr 3 : Around 900,000 doses of cholera vaccine arrived in Mozambique to help stave off a possible epidemic, after the devastation caused by Cyclone Idai, amid reports that the disease has already infected more than 1,000 people in affected areas. Confirming the delivery, Christian Lindmeier from the UN World Health Organization (WHO), told journalists in Geneva, the shipment was already being unloaded, and would start on Wednesday.
The protective measures are to be carried out in four areas including Beira city, Dondo district, Nhamatanda district and Buzi district, where “basically the whole population there will be vaccinated”, the WHO spokesperson explained. According to UN Children’s Fund UNICEF, local radio stations have agreed to take part in awareness-raising about the importance of containing the waterborne disease, which is endemic in the region, along with malaria, measles and other preventable diseases.
“We have to of course overcome the problem due to limited road access, but more importantly we have to mobilise the population in a vast communication campaign,” UNICEF spokesperson Christophe Boulierac said. Initially, at-risk communities will be given one cholera vaccine dose, providing protection from cholera for at least six months.
Along with ensuring that a second dose of vaccine is made available later this year, preventing people from drinking dirty water is a key priority, the WHO insists. “Once a person is sick, accessing treatment as quick as possible is of most importance,” Mr Lindmeier said. “It’s a sad fact to remind everyone (that) the young, the frail and the old - children especially - if they catch cholera in the morning, they could be dead in the evening, if not treated.”
The WHO spokesperson also warned that challenging weather conditions continue to cause concern. “Heavy rain is expected to continue in the next few days and this will certainly have an impact on response efforts”, Mr Lindmeier said. “Access to essential health services and the situation most likely will worsen therefore.” The development comes as the World Food Programme (WFP) announced that it is also scaling up aid significantly in coming weeks amid improved access to affected communities in rural areas of the four most affected provinces- Sofala, Manica, Tete and Zambezia.
Since the cyclone swept through Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe three weeks ago with wind speeds in excess of 150 kilometres per hour, WFP has provided food assistance to 350,000 people. “Thanks to the receding floodwaters we hope to reach 1.2 million people in the coming week with food assistance,” said WFP spokesperson Hervé Verhoosel. “That’s a huge scale-up compared to the 350,000 people that the World Food Programme had reached at the beginning of the response”, he added. (UNI)