Mozambique launches cholera vaccine drive amid deadly outbreak

Cholera kills at least three people as health officials begin campaign to immunise 900,000 cyclone survivors.

Beira, Mozambique – The Mozambican health ministry has launched a vaccination campaign in cyclone-ravaged Beira city in a bid to contain an outbreak of cholera that has killed at least three people.

Kate Alberti, a cholera expert at the World Health Organization (WHO), said on Wednesday the six-day drive will inoculate some 900,000 people in the four districts affected by cyclone Idai.

The powerful storm made landfall in Mozambique on March 14 and triggered widespread flooding that submerged entire villages. At least 598 people were killed, more than 600,000 were displaced and officials have said they expect the death toll to rise.

As floodwaters began to recede, health officials warned of a “second disaster” from cholera and other diseases.

Transmitted by drinking contaminated water and food, cholera is endemic in Mozambique.

Alberti said that the cyclone had caused damage to infrastructure, while reducing access to water and sanitation.

“Now, we have vaccines to prevent cholera in the communities and stop this outbreak,” she said at the Ifapa camp in hard-hit Beira city 

Children, who are at the highest risk of dying from cholera, will get priority, according to officials.

More than 1700 people have been infected since the outbreak was declared on March 27.

Health officials reported 200 new cases each day in Beira, a port city of half a million people.

The vaccination campaign will also cover the districts of Buzi, Nhamatanda and Dondo.

‘No option but to stay here’

Hundreds of people lined up on Wednesday to receive the oral vaccine doses at the Ifapa camp, where some 1,700 people displaced by the cyclone and flooding have taken shelter in 160 tarpaulin tents provided by aid agencies.

There were only 10 toilets for the camp’s residents, whose only source of clean water was a pump at the entrance to the camp.

Many were not happy about the poor quality of food and hygiene measures at Ifapa.

“Look at this cereal, is this nutritious?” asked Machel, holding up a small bowl of cornmeal. He only gave one name.

“We deserve better food. I know they are trying but the food quality needs to improve,” he said.

Teresa Jose, mother of three children, said: “The sanitary conditions of the camp are not very good for me and my children. The tents are not properly covered. It gets very hot during the day and cold at night.”

She added: “We have no option than to stay here for now but the conditions need to improve to ensure we don’t fall ill.”

Maria Jorge, mother of two, said she was worried about her children's safety amid cholera outbreak [Fidelis Mbah/Al Jazeera]
Maria Jorge, mother of two, said she was worried about her children’s safety amid cholera outbreak [Fidelis Mbah/Al Jazeera]

Health workers at the camp trained residents on hygiene and safe preparation of food, said 23-year-old Maria Jorge.

The mother of two said she was concerned about the safety of her young children, aged one and three.

“I don’t want to go through the trauma of being infected with cholera, so I have to take extra care of myself and my children,” Jorge said.

The United Nations has called cyclone Idai the “worst weather-related catastrophes in the history of Africa”.

The cyclone and flood killed more than 300 people in neighbouring Zimbabwe and Malawi.

Source: Al Jazeera