Patrick D Costa

The risk of cholera for children and their families is rapidly increasing one week after Cyclone Freddy made its second landfall in Mozambique, severely disrupting vital services.

The government’s preparation efforts appear to have reduced the cyclone’s death toll and displaced population compared to previous cyclones of the same magnitude. However, cholera cases are rising rapidly as a result of Cyclone Freddy-induced flooding and service disruptions in the areas of water, sanitation, and hygiene. Since the beginning of February, the number of cases that have been reported has almost quadrupled to almost 10,700, and more than 2300 cases have been reported in just the past week.

In the eight provinces of Mozambique, 36 districts are currently experiencing active cholera outbreaks. Inhambane and Zambezia, the provinces that were impacted by Cyclone Freddy during its initial and subsequent impacts, have both declared outbreaks. UNICEF is extremely concerned about the likelihood of an increase in cases of other water-borne diseases like diarrhea and malaria, which are among the leading causes of child mortality, in addition to the risk of cholera. As a result of the cyclone, health and nutrition services have been severely disrupted in many locations, increasing the risk of child death and disease.

Maria Luisa Fornara, the UNICEF representative in Mozambique, stated, “We are now facing a very real risk of a rapidly accelerating cholera outbreak in Mozambique.” Cholera is a disease that is especially dangerous for young children, particularly those who are malnourished. UNICEF is working intimately with Government to critically reestablish admittance to wellbeing, water, cleanliness and sterilization intercessions to regions hit by the typhoon, and to forestall and treat cholera, yet extra help is expected to meet the quickly developing requirements of kids and families.”

In support of the government, UNICEF is already collaborating with partners from the United Nations and civil society to respond to cholera, the effects of Cyclone Freddy, and flooding. In 2023, UNICEF has provided the Government and NGO partners with technical assistance, financial support, and health and WASH supplies worth more than US$1.2 million. A cholera vaccination campaign that was supported by UNICEF reached 720,000 individuals in February and is facilitating the acquisition of an additional 1.36 million vaccines, which will be delivered in the upcoming weeks. Additionally, essential supplies like soap, disinfectant, and water purification, treatment, and storage supplies are being distributed by UNICEF.

Additionally, UNICEF is assisting in efforts to ensure that students quickly regain access to education. Cyclone Freddy has destroyed over 1500 classrooms, according to estimates from the Mozambique National Institute of Disaster Risk Management (INGD), disrupting learning for over 134,000 students. Investing in climate-resilient infrastructure is crucial because none of the 1025 climate-resilient classrooms built with UNICEF support since 2019 was damaged by Cyclone Freddy.

For the immediate needs of children and families impacted by Cyclone Freddy, flooding, and cholera, UNICEF needs more than $50 million to provide lifesaving supplies, services, and technical support in water, sanitation, and hygiene; health; education; nutrition; child and social security, as well as efforts to recover, are integrated across all sectors with behavior modification interventions.

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