Babies are particularly susceptible to cholera, pregnant women who contract cholera have an increased risk of still birth, and pregnant women who contract malaria have increased risk of low birth weight babies.
A severe shortage of clean water has contributed to the outbreak of cholera in the port city of Beira this week, with at least 1,000 confirmed cases including one death according to the Ministry of Health. Spikes in malaria have also been reported further inland, in Manica province. Malaria is already a serious problem and is the leading cause of death for children under five in Mozambique.
“There are few diseases that are as concerning to a public health worker more than cholera. It causes acute diarrhoea, which can kill an adult within hours if untreated. It is also preventable – with access to chlorinated water and appropriate sanitation measures; and simple rehydration methods like Oral Rehydration Solution can prevent child deaths,” said Rachael Cummings, Director of Save the Children’s Humanitarian Public Health Team.
“Pregnant women who contract malaria are also more likely to have complications in pregnancy or give birth to smaller babies. It’s essential for women in cyclone-hit Mozambique to have access to skilled birth attendants and health facilities that are equipped to care for the pregnant woman and their newborn babies.”
Save the Children is ramping up its response to curb the outbreak of these diseases, having deployed a helicopter to Manica province to deliver mosquito nets, blankets, tarpaulins and jerry cans to families in hard to reach areas. Save the Children’s Emergency Health Unit has also been deployed and will start providing healthcare services for some of the worst-hit areas in the coming days.
Roda, 20, and her family were happy before Cyclone Idai tore through their community, destroying their home and all their belongings. In the weeks following the cyclone, Roda’s daughter, Albertina, contracted malaria.
“Before the cyclone we had everything. We had clothes and pots. But when the cyclone came it took our home, we lost all of our things in the water,” said Roda.
“We ran and climbed up a tree, we stayed there until the following day. We were collected by a boat and we were taken to this mission [school].
“Nothing happened to Albertina during the cyclone, but after, my daughter got malaria. She received treatment and now she is better. Her malaria symptoms included shivering, vomiting and loss of appetite.”
Save the Children provided Roda and her family with a family kit, which they are now using to reduce their risk of further sickness.
Cyclone Idai made landfall three weeks ago in Mozambique, affecting an estimated 1.85 million people, including close to 1 million children. The winds and floods damaged some 100,000 houses and at least 35 health facilities in Mozambique alone before continuing to landlocked Malawi and Zimbabwe where Save the Children is also responding. Thousands of mothers are unable to access pre-natal health care and face the prospect of giving birth in squalid conditions, with little protection for their children.
As a member of the COSACA consortium with Oxfam and CARE, and in close coordination with the Government of Mozambique, Save the Children is working to reconstruct partially destroyed schools and healthcare centres, and to prevent disease outbreaks by providing access to clean water and promoting good hygiene practices.
Save the Children is also ramping up vital child protection work by working to establish around 80 child-friendly spaces, where children can play and recover, while their families receive information on how to access services to rebuild their lives. In these spaces, children also receive important messaging on hygiene practices to avoid the spread of cholera, including handwashing, covering food, and how to access clean drinking water.
Save the Children is aiming to reach at least 190,000 children and their families in the coming weeks and months.