Cyclone Idai

With Cholera, Cyclone Idai Deals Another Blow

With lack of clean drinking water, cases of cholera are mounting in the region after major destruction from the cyclone occurred last month.

IV solution, antibiotics and oral rehydration salts, all used to help patients treat and recover from cholera, are staged for shipment on Friday in Direct Relief's warehouse. The shipment is bound for Sofala Province in Mozambique, where the supplies will be distributed to health facilities working to treat patients with cholera. (Lara Cooper/Direct Relief)
IV solution, antibiotics and oral rehydration salts, all used to help patients treat and recover from cholera, are staged for shipment on Friday in Direct Relief's warehouse. The shipment is bound for Sofala Province in Mozambique, where the supplies will be distributed to health facilities working to treat patients with cholera. (Lara Cooper/Direct Relief)

When Cyclone Idai crashed ashore on March 14 in the vicinity of Beira in central Mozambique, it inundated an already flooded region, creating an inland sea that submerged homes, businesses, and roads and stranded people by the tens of thousands. The storm and subsequent floods killed at least 800 people in Mozambique and neighboring countries.

Despite the heavy losses sustained in the storm and its aftermath, the risks are still rising.

A Second Crisis

Communities in the storm-affected area were already burdened by many of the planet’s most pressing problems, from chronic and infectious disease to high rates of maternal mortality. People in the storm’s path must now shoulder those burdens under even harsher conditions – with transportation and communications disrupted, agricultural fields saturated with salt water, homes damaged, and livelihoods wiped out.

While floodwaters have since receded from their “inland ocean” depths – allowing assistance to reach communities that had been cut off for days and even weeks – the region faces another crisis: more than 2,000 cases of cholera have been reported.

Cholera is a highly-contagious waterborne disease that can kill a person within hours. Due to its short incubation period, the bacteria can transmit rapidly in explosive outbreak patterns. However, with swift medical care and the right supplies, 80 percent of cases can be successfully cured.

The Response

Direct Relief’s response, consistent with longstanding practice, involves working with and through its existing local partner network. As in any such unfolding, very dynamic emergency with multiple actors working fast, the risk of duplicating efforts is high.

Direct Relief is taking care to avoid such duplication with broad coordination, information sharing, participation in coordinating calls with UN agencies working at the government’s request and connecting directly with health facilities through its local partner network.

Moreover, Direct Relief’s response is based on specifically requested needs identified by responsible authorities that are vetted and checked with national agencies and international groups.

To date, Direct Relief’s response includes:

  • Committing $500,000 to the response, with support from 3M, Abbott, AbbVie, Apotex, BMS, FedEx, P&G, LiquidIV, Merck, Sandoz, Teva, and other companies that stepped up to address the crisis with contributions of medical products and financial contributions. These funds have been allocated to purchase and transport requested medications. Direct Relief is also issuing emergency operating grants to local organizations such as Health Alliance International, helping them expand and sustain emergency operations, support their communities and help repair critical infrastructure.
  • Coordinating with local organizations in Malawi (Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital, Society of Medical Doctors), Mozambique (The Chissano Foundation, Health Alliance International), and Zimbabwe (Zimbabwe Diabetes Association, Zimbabwe Confederation of Midwives) to identify and respond to the specific needs of healthcare providers serving affected communities.
  • Equipping public health facilities and local organizations in Mozambique with multiple shipments containing more than 200,000 defined daily doses of requested antibiotics, analgesics, oral rehydration solution, deworming medicines, and emergency medical supplies such as protective gear and soap to help curb the spread of cholera. Critically needed medical items are being distributed by helicopter to heavily impacted districts.
  • Deploying emergency medical and Cholera Treatment Kits to cyclone-affected areas. Direct Relief designed the kit with enough medicine and medical supplies to treat 100 cholera patients. Since 2016, Direct Relief has deployed Cholera Treatment Kits to combat outbreaks in countries including Haiti, Bangladesh, Yemen, South Sudan, Somaliland.
  • Supplying physician teams with specially designed medical packs that contain supplies and equipment to meet a variety of prevalent disaster-related medical issues, including infection control, diagnostics, and trauma care.

Direct Relief will continue responding to specific requests as the region recovers.

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