Cholera vaccination underway in Mozambique

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Amelia Mateos, a preventive medicine technician, is leading the campaign at this vaccination station – one of 73 vaccination points in Dondo district.

Masoka Dube

AN oral cholera vaccination campaign to protect survivors of Cyclone Idai that hit Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Malawi and Madagascar began last week in Beira, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said in a statement.

The campaign funded by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, will be carried out by the Mozambique Ministry of Health, with support from WHO and other partners, including UNICEF, the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and Save the Children.

According to the statement, there has already been one reported cholera death and almost 1500 reported cases following the devastating cyclone.

Nine cholera treatment centres, with a 500-bed capacity, are already admitting patients.

“Cyclone Idai’s trail of devastation has left the city of Beira’s water and sanitation infrastructure in ruins, providing the perfect conditions for cholera to spread,” said Gavi CEO, Dr Seth Berkley.

“This cyclone has already caused enough devastation and misery across southeast Africa; we have to hope these vaccines will help stop a potentially major outbreak and prevent yet more suffering,” Berkley said.

“Hundreds of thousands of people are living in terrible conditions in temporary settlements without safe drinking water and sanitation, putting them at serious risk of cholera and other diseases.”

The oral cholera vaccine was a vital emergency measure that would help save lives and stop the spread of this horrible disease, said Berkley.

WHO said it was supporting the health ministry to co-ordinate the vaccination campaign, including working with partners to ensure appropriate cold chain storage and providing logistical support.

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 last year.