The struggles of Cyclone Idai survivors are deepening with the first confirmed cases of cholera, according to an aid worker.
James East, of World Vision, is currently based in Mozambique’s cyclone-ravaged city of Beira, where authorities have announced the first confirmed cases of the infectious disease.
It raises the stakes in an already desperate fight to help hundreds of thousands of people sheltering in increasingly squalid conditions.
Mr East said: “Cholera is a killer if you do not get treated quickly and malaria is another thing to be concerned about. We need to try and stop another crisis which is a health crisis. We have already had to cope with the natural disaster and crisis of the cyclone.”
Ussene Isse, the national director of medical assistance, said that five cholera cases have been confirmed in Munhava, one of the poorest neighbourhoods in the hard-hit port city.
The city of some 500,000 people is still struggling to provide clean water and sanitation after Cyclone Idai roared in on March 14.
More than 750 people died when the cyclone swept through Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe. Strong winds and widespread flooding ripped apart roads, bridges, houses, schools and health facilities, and submerged vast swathes of agricultural land.
It is estimated that three million people have been affected by Cyclone Idai and floods across Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe, according to World Vision, which is working in all three countries.
The Disaster Emergency Committee’s Cyclone Idai appeal, which was launched on March 21, has now raised £21 million. The UK Government matched pound for pound £4 million donated by the public to the appeal.
With little clean water available, cholera cases have been reported and there is a high risk of outbreaks of other waterborne diseases. Conditions in Mozambique in particular remain challenging and some areas are still in accessible, but aid is starting to get through.
In the aftermath of the disaster helicopters were the only way to get vital aid through to isolated regions, although receding floodwaters have meant that some roads can be used.
Despite most river levels having now peaked, flooding remains severe and the full scale of the disaster has yet to become clear as search and rescue operations continue.
Mr East said: “There had been a mood of despondency and people are shell-shocked by what has happened. (Now) people are beginning to try and prepare things and are trying to salvage things that have collapsed.”
He added: “You need a concerted effort by the international community to help these people who are at the very bottom. People are resilient and want better for their kids but they just don’t have a chance – and then a cyclone hits.
“People are resilient but there is only so much they can take.”
Child safety is also a priority as the children no longer have the familiar protection of schools and are living in crowded displacement areas with strangers.
Mr East said that creating child-friendly spaces where children can play safely is also important.
In a situation where family incomes have been destroyed and people are desperate there is a risk of children being exploited through labour, and also a risk of girls being sexually abused, according to Mr East.
DEC chief executive Saleh Saeed said: “The full scale of the disaster in Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe has yet to become clear but we do know that this is developing into one of the most pressing humanitarian emergencies in the world at the moment.
“Whilst conditions remain challenging, aid is getting through and DEC members are working hard to reach those who so desperately need help.”