Nearly a million going hungry in conflict-hit Mozambique, U.N. says

GENEVA (Reuters) -Almost one million people face severe hunger in northern Mozambique, where hundreds of thousands have fled Islamist militant attacks, the United Nations food agency said on Tuesday.

Islamic State-linked insurgents last month attacked Palma, a town in Cabo Delgado province next to gas projects under development by companies including Total and Exxon.

The World Food Program (WFP) said in a briefing in Geneva that 950,000 people are now hungry in Mozambique. It appealed to donors for $82 million to confront the crisis.

“Families and individuals have had to abandon their belongings and livelihoods and flee for safety…adding to an already desperate situation in Northern Mozambique,” WFP spokesman Tomson Phiri said.

The U.N. Children Fund’s director of emergencies, Manuel Fontaine, told the same briefing: “We are facing both a large and likely long-lasting humanitarian situation.”

The population in some towns had doubled or even tripled as displaced people arrived, he said.

About 690,000 people were already displaced across the country by February. A further 16,500 have since been registered in other areas of Cabo Delgado after fleeing the attack in Palma, the International Organization for Migration said.

Tens of thousands more are still displaced within Palma district or are on the move, the U.N. humanitarian coordination agency, OCHA, said on Monday

Many fled to a nearby village called Quitunda, built by French energy giant Total to house those displaced by its $20 billion gas project.

People there have little access to food, no protection and gather in their hundreds at Total’s site every day desperate for evacuation, a witness told Reuters. Total pulled its staff from the site due to nearby insurgent activity on April 2.

Total has also suspended operations in the provincial capital of Pemba, a source told Reuters. Total did not immediately provide a comment.

Mozambique’s Centre for Public Integrity said the government had failed to manage the crisis, relying mostly on aid agencies to provide support for those fleeing the violence. Many stayed in war zones as they had no means to reach safer areas, it said.

Authorities are still working to identify 12 beheaded bodies found in Palma after the attack, which both police and army officials said were believed to be foreigners.

Mozambique’s population is mostly Christian. Cabo Delgado is one of only a few provinces that have a Muslim majority.

The country remains one of Africa’s poorest and underdeveloped despite its natural resources, and the Islamist insurgency is a rapidly growing threat after a few years of relative peace following a succession of wars.

($1 = 55.5 meticais)

(Reporting by Emma Thomasson in Geneva and Emma Rumney in Johannesburg; Additional reporting by Manuel Mucari in Maputo, Catarina Demony in Lison and Geert De Clercq in Paris; Editing by Stephanie Nebehay, Joe Bavier and Angus MacSwan)

Mozambique militants beheading children as young as 11, Save the Children says

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – Children as young as 11 are being beheaded in Mozambique, UK-based aid group Save the Children said on Tuesday, as part of an Islamist insurgency that has killed thousands and forced many magnitudes more from their homes.

Save the Children said it had spoken to displaced families who described “horrifying scenes” of murder, including mothers whose young sons were killed. In one case, the woman hid, helpless, with her three other children as her 12-year-old was murdered nearby.

“We tried to escape to the woods, but they took my eldest son and beheaded him,” the 28-year-old, who Save the Children called Elsa, is quoted as saying.

“We couldn’t do anything because we would be killed too.”

Another mother, a 29-year-old Save the Children calls Amelia, said her son was just 11 when he was killed by armed men.

Reuters could not immediately reach Mozambique police or government spokespeople for comment.

Mozambique’s northernmost province of Cabo Delgado has since 2017 been home to a festering insurgency, linked to Islamic State, that has escalated dramatically in the past year.

While beheadings have always been a hallmark of the attacks, throughout 2020 the insurgents began regularly engaging the military to capture and hold key towns. Brutality also continued, with mass killings including the murder of around 52 people at once in the village of Xitaxi in April.

Altogether almost 2,700 people on all sides have died in the violence, according to the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED), a consultancy that tracks political violence. Almost 670,000 people have been displaced, Save the Children said.

The United States last week declared the Mozambique group a foreign terrorist organization over its links to Islamic State, saying the group reportedly pledged allegiance to it as early as 2018. Islamic State claimed its first attack in Cabo Delgado in June 2019.

The U.S. embassy in Mozambique on Monday said U.S. special forces will train Mozambican marines for two months, with the country also providing medical and communications equipment, to help Mozambique combat the insurgency.

Amnesty International found earlier in March that war crimes were being committed by all sides in the conflict, with government forces also responsible for abuses against civilians – a charge the government has denied.

Chance Briggs, Save the Children’s country director in Mozambique, said reports of attacks on children “sicken us to our core”.

“The violence has to stop and displaced families need to be supported as they find their bearings and recover from trauma,” Briggs continued.

(Reporting by Emma Rumney; Additional reporting for Manuel Mucari, William Maclean)

Thirteen dead, thousands homeless in southern Africa after storm Eloise

By Kirthana Pillay and Emma Rumney

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – The death toll from storm Eloise rose to at least 13 on Monday after heavy winds, rain and flooding destroyed buildings, drowned crops and displaced thousands in parts of southern Africa.

Eloise weakened from a cyclone to a tropical storm after making landfall in central Mozambique on Saturday, but continued to dump rain on Zimbabwe, eSwatini – formerly known as Swaziland – South Africa and Botswana.

Six people were killed in Mozambique, the country’s National Institute for Disaster Risk Management and Reduction (INGD) reported, while the number of displaced people rose to more than 8,000, with thousands of homes wrecked or flooded.

A five-year-old child was killed in South Africa’s eastern Mpumalanga province after being swept away, said George Mthethwa, head of communications for the provincial department of cooperative governance and traditional affairs.

In neighboring Limpopo, fast-flowing rivers destroyed a makeshift bridge, leaving people hoping to cross stranded on either side. Others waded through the knee-high flood waters.

The death toll stood at two in eSwatini, according to police. Three people had been reported killed in Zimbabwe and one in Madagascar.

“Rainfall is starting to ease off slowly,” said Puseletso Mofokeng, senior forecaster at the South African Weather Service, adding there was still a risk of localized flooding as more rain was expected on saturated ground.

Zimbabwe’s national water authority also warned that dams were spilling over and could cause floods further downstream.

Following Cyclone Idai in 2019, rainwater flowed from Zimbabwe back into Mozambique causing devastating floods. Over 1,000 people died across the region, with the impoverished coastal nation bearing the brunt.

Eloise struck an area still recovering from that devastation and already flooded in parts.

Evacuations, warnings and higher community awareness have led to a much lower death toll, but some temporary camps, where evacuees were taken, have been cut off.

Sergio Dinoi, head of the advisory team in Mozambique for the U.N.’s humanitarian arm, said groups were venturing out, in some cases via boat, on Monday to assess the damage.

(Reporting by Emma Rumney and Kirthana Pillay in Johannesburg; Additional reporting by Manuel Mucari in Maputo, Macdonald Dzirutwe in Harare and Lunga Masuku in Mbabane, editing by Ed Osmond)

Rain grounds Mozambique aid flights as cyclone death toll hits 38

Residents wade through a flooded road in the aftermath of Cyclone Kenneth in Pemba, Mozambique, April 28, 2019. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

By Mike Hutchings

PEMBA, Mozambique (Reuters) – Rains grounded aid flights in northern Mozambique for a second day on Monday, hampering efforts to reach survivors of Cyclone Kenneth as the death toll there jumped to 38.

Rescuers managed to use a brief break in the downpours to send one helicopter packed with aid to the island of Ibo, where hundreds of homes were flattened by the second cyclone to hit the country in less than six weeks.

But rains started again and conditions were too dangerous for the next flight to take off, the United Nations said. Roads to rural districts further north were swamped and impassable after torrential rains on Sunday.

Aid workers load food onto a truck as flooding spreads in the aftermath of Cyclone Kenneth in Pemba, Mozambique, April 29, 2019. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

Aid workers load food onto a truck as flooding spreads in the aftermath of Cyclone Kenneth in Pemba, Mozambique, April 29, 2019. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

“Unfortunately the weather conditions are changing too fast and threatening the operation,” said Saviano Abreu, a spokesman for the United Nations’ humanitarian arm OCHA.

Cyclone Kenneth slammed into the Comoros and then Mozambique’s province of Cabo Delgado on Thursday with storm surges and winds of up to 280 kph – stretching resources in a region still recovering from Cyclone Idai which struck further south in March.

The storm knocked out power and communications. Some rural communities were reduced to mounds of jumbled wood, with only the occasional structure and coconut tree left standing.

Four people died in the Comoros, the United Nations said. Mozambique’s National Institute of Disaster Management said its death toll stood at 38 on Monday – up from an earlier estimate of five – and just over 168,000 people had been affected.

After the first hit, heavy rains pounded Mozambique’s north, an area prone to floods and landslides. Information about the scale of the flooding in more remote districts remains scant.

In the port city of Pemba at least, waters had started to recede, OCHA’s Abreu said. Water was still waist-deep in some neighborhoods. One man ferried residents in a wooden boat. Others just waded through the deluge, some carrying belongings on their heads.

The aftermath of Cyclone Kenneth is seen in Macomia District, Cabo Delgado province, Mozambique April 27, 2019 in this picture obtained from social media on April 28, 2019. OCHA/Saviano Abreu/via REUTERS

The aftermath of Cyclone Kenneth is seen in Macomia District, Cabo Delgado province, Mozambique April 27, 2019 in this picture obtained from social media on April 28, 2019. OCHA/Saviano Abreu/via REUTERS

Idai destroyed the port city of Beira and submerged entire villages, vast swathes of land and 700,000 hectares of crops. It killed more than 1,000 people across Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe.

Forecasters have said Kenneth could drop twice as much rain as Idai on Mozambique’s north. Authorities urged people living near rivers to move to higher ground over the weekend.

The United Nations said it had released $13 million in emergency funds for Mozambique and the Comoros to provide food and water and repair infrastructure.

(Additional reporting by Emma Rumney and Mfuneko Toyana in Johannesburg; Writing by Emma Rumney; Editing by Toby Chopra and Andrew Heavens)

Cyclone kills one, leaves trail of destruction across Mozambique

Damaged properties are pictured after Cyclone Kenneth swept through the region in Cabo Delgado province, Mozambique April 26, 2019 in this image obtained from social media. Picture taken from inside a vehicle. UNICEF via REUTERS

By Emma Rumney and Stephen Eisenhammer

JOHANNESBURG/LUANDA (Reuters) – Cyclone Kenneth killed at least one person and left a trail of destruction in northern Mozambique, destroying houses, ripping up trees and knocking out power, authorities said on Friday.

The cyclone brought storm surges and wind gusts of up to 280 km per hour (174 mph) when it made landfall on Thursday evening, after killing three people in the island nation of Comoros.

It was the most powerful storm on record to hit Mozambique’s northern coast and came just six weeks after Cyclone Idai battered the impoverished nation, causing devastating floods and killing more than 1,000 people across a swathe of southern Africa.

The World Food Programme warned that Kenneth could dump as much as 600 millimeters of rain on the region over the next 10 days – twice that brought by Cyclone Idai.

One woman in the port town of Pemba died after being hit by a falling tree, the Emergency Operations Committee for Cabo Delgado (COE) said in a statement, while another person was injured.

In rural areas outside Pemba, many homes are made of mud. In the main town on the island of Ibo, 90 percent of the houses were destroyed, officials said. Around 15,000 people were out in the open or in “overcrowded” shelters and there was a need for tents, food and water, they said.

There were also reports of a large number of homes and some infrastructure destroyed in Macomia district, a mainland district adjacent to Ibo.

A local group, the Friends of Pemba Association, had earlier reported that they could not reach people in Muidumbe, a district further inland.

Mark Lowcock, United Nations under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs, warned the storm could require another major humanitarian operation in Mozambique.

“Cyclone Kenneth marks the first time two cyclones have made landfall in Mozambique during the same season, further stressing the government’s limited resources,” he said in a statement.

FLOOD WARNINGS

Shaquila Alberto, owner of the beach-front Messano Flower Lodge in Macomia, said there were many fallen trees there, and in rural areas people’s homes had been damaged. Some areas of nearby Pemba had no power.

“Even my workers, they said the roof and all the things fell down,” she said by phone.

Further south, in Pemba, Elton Ernesto, a receptionist at Raphael’s Hotel, said there were fallen trees but not too much damage. The hotel had power and water, he said, while phones rang in the background. “The rain has stopped,” he added.

However Michael Charles, an official for the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), said heavy rains over the next few days were likely to bring a “second wave of destruction” in the form of flooding.

“The houses are not all solid, and the topography is very sandy,” Charles said.

In the days after Cyclone Idai, heavy inland rains prompted rivers to burst their banks, submerging entire villages, cutting areas off from aid and ruining crops. There were concerns the same could happen again in northern Mozambique.

Before Kenneth hit, the government and aid workers moved around 30,000 people to safer buildings such as schools, however authorities said that around 680,000 people were in the path of the storm.

(Reporting by Emma Rumney and Stephen Eisenhammer; Writing by Emma Rumney; Editing by Janet Lawrence and Alexandra Zavis)

Cyclone Kenneth batters Comoros and heads to Mozambique

Tropical Cyclone Kenneth approaches the coast of Mozambique in this April 25, 2019 handout satellite image. NASA/Handout via REUTERS

By Ali Amir Ahmed

MORONI (Reuters) – Violent winds of up to 140 kph (87 mph) lashed the East African island nation of Comoros overnight, killing three people, authorities said on Thursday, as Cyclone Kenneth swept toward flood-battered Mozambique.

In Comoros, the winds caused widespread power outages in the northern part of the main island, Grande Comore, and the capital Moroni as well as on the island of Anjouan, residents said.

By Thursday afternoon, the cyclone was making its way to Mozambique, just over a month after Cyclone Idai tore through central Mozambique, virtually flattening the port city of Beira, flooding an area the size of Luxembourg and killing more than 1,000 people across the region.

Kenneth may strengthen before it makes landfall on the continent, said Dipuo Tawana, forecaster at the South African Weather Service.

It could bring seven- to nine-meter waves and a three-meter storm surge, she said, and was likely to linger over Mozambique, dumping rain until late Monday evening, bringing a risk of intense flooding.

“The rainfall that we forecast for the next four days in the northeastern part of Mozambique – we have between 500 and 1,000 millimeters (19.5 to 39 inches) of rain,” Tawana said.

FLOODS LOOM FOR MOZAMBIQUE

In Comoros, a Reuters correspondent saw fallen trees and debris from homes scattered over streets, and houses with their roofs torn off.

President Azali Assoumani told reporters that three people had been were killed and several others injured.

A few taxis were driving around the center of Moroni on Thursday morning as police and soldiers cleared blocked roads. Government offices and schools were closed.

In Mozambique, authorities said on Wednesday that five rivers as well as coastal waterways could overflow, putting over 680,000 people at risk from the storm.

Antonie Beleza, deputy national director of Mozambique’s Centre for Emergency Operations, said the center had been telling people for days to move out of 17 at-risk districts.

“There were some people, they didn’t want to move as of yesterday, so now we are just taking them out,” he said by phone from the northern port town of Pemba. At least 5,000 people had moved out.

The energy firm Anadarko, which is developing large natural gas fields off Mozambique, said it had suspended air transportation in and out of the site as a precaution.

Exxon Mobil , also involved in the fields, said its operations were normal for now, but that it was monitoring the situation.

(Additional reporting Emma Rumney and Alexander Winning in Johannesburg and Stephen Eisenhammer in Luanda; Writing by Elias Biryabarema and Alison Williams; Editing by Hereward Holland and Kevin Liffey)

After Cyclone Idai, thousands still cut off, many more in need: aid agencies

FILE PHOTO: Women wait to receive aid at a camp for the people displaced in the aftermath of Cyclone Idai in John Segredo near Beira, Mozambique March 31, 2019. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – One month after Cyclone Idai tore through southern Africa bringing devastating floods, aid agencies say the situation remains critical with some communities in worst-hit Mozambique only just being reached with aid.

The storm made landfall in Mozambique on March 14, flattening the port city of Beira before moving inland to batter Malawi and Zimbabwe.

It heaped rain on the region’s highlands that then flowed back into Mozambique, leaving an area the size of Luxembourg under water. More than 1,000 people died across the three countries, and the World Bank has estimated more than $2 billion will be needed for them to recover.

FILE PHOTO: Survivors of cyclone Idai arrive at Coppa business centre to receive aid in Chipinge, Zimbabwe, March 26, 2019. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo/File Photo

Over the weekend, aid agencies said thousands of people were still completely cut off and warned of the potential for a catastrophic hunger crisis to take hold, especially as aid appeals went largely underfunded.

Dorothy Sang, Oxfam’s humanitarian advocacy manager, said an aid drop was being planned for an isolated area where just last week 2,000 people were found for the first time since the storm. They had been surviving on coconuts, dates and small fish they could catch.

Oxfam estimates there are 4,000 people still cut off. Sang added that while often these weren’t the worst-hit by the disaster, they were already living in chronic poverty and now face huge challenges to survive.

“They risk becoming utterly forgotten,” she said.

On Sunday, Care International said the destruction of crops would compound existing food security problems across the region, and called on donors to find additional funds for the response.

Mozambique’s $337 million humanitarian response plan, largely made up of an appeal for $281 million after the cyclone hit, remained only 23 percent funded on Monday.

The United Nations has also requested $294 million for Zimbabwe, an appeal currently 11 percent funded. The government has separately asked for $613 million to help with the humanitarian crisis.

Meanwhile, U.N. children’s agency Unicef warned at least 1.6 million children need some kind of urgent assistance, from healthcare to education, across all three countries. Save the Children also said many are traumatized after witnessing the death and destruction wrought by the storm.

Machiel Pouw, Save the Children’s response team leader, said children and their families needed long-term help to recover.

“After a disaster of this scale, the world must not look away.”

(Reporting by Emma Rumney; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

Factbox: Cyclone Idai’s death toll rises to 847, hundreds of thousands displaced

FILE PHOTO: Survivors of cyclone Idai arrive at Coppa business centre to receive aid in Chipinge, Zimbabwe, March 26, 2019. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo/File Photo

BEIRA, Mozambique (Reuters) – Hundreds of thousands of people are in need of food, water and shelter after Cyclone Idai battered Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi.

As of Sunday, at least 847 people had been reported killed by the storm, the flooding it caused and heavy rains before it hit. Following is an outline of the disaster, according to government and United Nations officials.

MOZAMBIQUE

Cyclone Idai landed on the night of March 14 near the port city of Beira, bringing heavy winds and rains. Two major rivers, the Buzi and the Pungue, burst their banks, submerging entire villages and leaving bodies floating in the water.

People killed: 602

People injured: 1,641

Houses damaged or destroyed: 239,682

Crops damaged: 715,378 hectares

People affected: 1.85 million

Confirmed cholera cases: 2,424

Confirmed cholera deaths: 5

ZIMBABWE

On March 16 the storm hit eastern Zimbabwe, where it flattened homes and flooded communities in the Chimanimani and Chipinge districts.

People killed: 185, according to government. The U.N. migration agency puts the death toll at 259.

People injured: 200

People displaced: 16,000 households

People affected: 250,000

MALAWI

Before it arrived, the storm brought heavy rains and flooding to the lower Shire River districts of Chikwawa and Nsanje in Malawi’s south. The rains continued after the storm hit, compounding the misery of tens of thousands of people.

People killed: 60

People injured: 672

People displaced: 19,328 households

People affected: 868,895

(Reporting by Emma Rumney and Stephen Eisenhammer in Beira, Tom Miles in Geneva, MacDonald Dzirutwe in Harare and Frank Phiri in Blantyre; Writing by Alexandra Zavis, Alexander Winning and Joe Bavier; Editing by Angus MacSwan and David Goodman)

Cholera cases jump to 138 in Mozambique’s Beira after cyclone

Medical staff wear protective masks at a cholera treatment centre set up in the aftermath of Cyclone Idai in Beira, Mozambique, March 29, 2019. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

By Stephen Eisenhammer

BEIRA, Mozambique (Reuters) – The number of confirmed cases of cholera in the cyclone-hit Mozambican port city of Beira jumped from five to 138 on Friday, as government and aid agencies battled to contain the spread of disease among the tens of thousands of victims of the storm.

Cyclone Idai smashed into Beira on March 14, causing catastrophic flooding and killing more than 700 people across three countries in southeast Africa.

Many badly affected areas in Mozambique and Zimbabwe are still inaccessible by road, complicating relief efforts and exacerbating the threat of infection.

Although there have been no confirmed cholera deaths in medical centers in Mozambique yet, at least two people died outside hospitals with symptoms including dehydration and diarrhea, the country’s environment minister Celso Correia said.

A Reuters reporter saw the body of a dead child being brought out of an emergency clinic in Beira on Wednesday. The child had suffered acute diarrhea, which can be a symptom of cholera.

“We expected this, we were prepared for this, we’ve doctors in place,” Correia told reporters.

The government said for the first time that there had been confirmed cholera cases on Wednesday.

Mozambique’s National Disaster Management Institute said the local death toll from the tropical storm had increased to 493 people, from 468 previously.

That takes the total death toll across Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi to 738 people, with many more still missing.

“Stranded communities are relying on heavily polluted water. This, combined with widespread flooding and poor sanitation, creates fertile grounds for disease outbreaks, including cholera,” the International Committee of the Red Cross said in a statement.

In Geneva, the World Health Organization’s Tarik Jasarevic said 900,000 doses of oral cholera vaccine were expected to arrive on Monday.

Cholera is endemic to Mozambique, which has had regular outbreaks over the past five years. About 2,000 people were infected in the last outbreak, which ended in February 2018, according to the WHO.

But the scale of the damage to Beira’s water and sanitation infrastructure, coupled with its dense population, have raised fears that another epidemic would be difficult to put down.

(Reporting by Stephen Eisenhammer in Beira and Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva; Writing Alexander Winning; Editing by Alison Williams)

Amid ruined lives, Mozambique’s cyclone survivors face cholera

Locals look on as a chopper takes off after they received food aid from a South African National Defence Force (SANDF) helicopter in the aftermath of Cyclone Idai in Nhamatanda village, near Beira, Mozambique, March 26, 2019. Picture taken March 26, 2019. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

By Emma Rumney and Stephen Eisenhammer

BEIRA, Mozambique (Reuters) – Dozens of fragile patients poured into a clinic in the wrecked Mozambican port city of Beira on Wednesday, as the government said it had confirmed the first five cases of cholera in the wake of deadly Cyclone Idai.

A general view of houses seen from the air near Nhamatanda village, Beira, Mozambique, following Cyclone Idai, March 26, 2019. Picture taken March 26, 2019. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

A general view of houses seen from the air near Nhamatanda village, Beira, Mozambique, following Cyclone Idai, March 26, 2019. Picture taken March 26, 2019. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

Thousands of people were trapped for more than a week in submerged villages without access to clean water after the cyclone smashed into Mozambique on March 14, causing catastrophic flooding. Relief efforts have increasingly focused on containing outbreaks of waterborne and infectious diseases.

In Munhava in central Beira, doctors and nurses at a newly set up treatment center said they are treating around 140 patients a day for diarrhea. Many of the patients arrive too weak to walk.

A Reuters reporter saw two men carrying an unconscious woman from a rickshaw into the clinic, trying to cover her naked body with a sheet.

Inside, those too ill to sit lay on concrete benches attached to intravenous drips. Mothers were perched on plastic chairs in the courtyard, trying to get their children to drink rehydration salts from green cups.

“He won’t take it,” said Marisa Salgado, 22, holding her boy, aged 1-1/2, who stared with glazed eyes.

It was the second time she had been to the clinic this week, Salgado said. Her child’s diarrhea returned as soon as she got home, despite the chlorine solution nurses gave her to purify their water.

“I’m scared. I don’t know what to do,” she said.

Cholera is endemic to Mozambique, which has had regular outbreaks over the past five years. About 2,000 people were infected in the last outbreak, which ended in February 2018, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

But the scale of the damage to Beira’s water and sanitation infrastructure coupled with its dense population have raised fears that an epidemic now would be difficult to put down.

A relative writes the name of a one-year-old child who died at a health centre dealing with water borne diseases onto a a cross in Beira, Mozambique, March 27, 2019. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

A relative writes the name of a one-year-old child who died at a health centre dealing with water borne diseases onto a a cross in Beira, Mozambique, March 27, 2019. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

Ussene Isse, national director of medical assistance at the Health Ministry, said he expected cholera to spread beyond the five cases confirmed as of Wednesday morning.

“When you have one case, you have to expect more cases in the community,” he told reporters. Health workers are battling 2,700 cases of acute diarrhea, which could be a symptom of cholera, Isse added.

Health workers apply the same treatment for acute diarrhea or cholera, with severe cases requiring rapid rehydration through intravenous fluids.

Such diseases are another threat in the aftermath of Idai, which tore through Mozambique and into neighboring Zimbabwe and Malawi, killing more than 700 people and displacing hundreds of thousands of others.

Cholera is spread by faeces in sewage-contaminated water or food, and outbreaks can develop quickly in a humanitarian crisis where sanitation systems are disrupted. It can kill within hours if left untreated.

GRAPHIC: Cyclone Idai’s destructive path – https://tmsnrt.rs/2HxKqdk

CHILDREN DYING

Lin Lovue, 27, said he had rushed his son to the clinic late on Tuesday after a day of diarrhea. Within an hour of getting there, the child died.

“The biggest challenge is organization,” said a coordinator at the clinic who did not want to be named. “The health system was completely broken after the storm and we have to re-establish capacity fast.”

Medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), which runs the emergency center at Munhava, has set up two others in Beira and is providing consultations via mobile clinics in several neighborhoods.

Outside the clinic, two medics dressed in blue overalls lifted the body of a 1-year-old child wrapped in a white bag on to the back of an open-top truck. The father laid his child down on a bamboo mat as someone wrote the baby’s name on a wooden cross.

The WHO is sending 900,000 doses of oral cholera vaccine to affected areas from a global stockpile. The shipment is expected to arrive in Mozambique later this week.

For now families, like that of Nelson Vasco, are being given a chlorine solution to purify their water. Three of Vasco’s children were discharged on Wednesday after recovering from severe diarrhea.

Vasco and his wife and mother carried the frail children on their backs as they walked through the mud to reach their two-room house in Goto, a poor community in central Beira.

Their home lost its roof in the storm and although Vasco managed to salvage some of the metal sheeting, the rain still comes in. But the biggest danger right now is the water from the mains supply.

Like most in this community of mud-brick homes, the family do not have running water, instead buying it from a neighbor who does. But they now worry it has been contaminated.

The death toll in Mozambique from Cyclone Idai has risen to 468, Mozambican disaster management official Augusta Maita said. That takes the total number of deaths in Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi to 707 people, with many more missing.

(Additional reporting by Manuel Mucari in Maputo and Stephanie Ulmer-Nebehay in Geneva; Writing by Alexander Winning and Joe Bavier; Editing by Louise Heavens, Janet Lawrence and Frances Kerry)