MSF supports Mozambique as the country confronts a cholera epidemic

For the moment, the local authorities are able to keep mortality rates at less than 1%. However, since the current treatment centre is set up for only 150 patients, the local authorities have asked MSF to provide supplementary infrastructural support for four times the number of patients, as well as support them in their awareness-raising efforts in the most affected neighborhoods to teach the population about proper hygiene practices.

 

Maputo/Geneva - For one month now a cholera epidemic has been ravaging Maputo, the capital city of Mozambique. The number of cases has continuously grown with currently more than 700 patients being cared for in the treatment centre created by local health authorities.

At their request, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has organized more space to ensure that as many patients as possible get treated. MSF is also supporting the health authorities in their disease prevention efforts in Maputo.

Since mid-December, the number of new cases has been growing and is now reaching an alarming rate: since January 25, more than 200 new patients were admitted daily in the treatment tent by the health authorities.

For the moment, the local authorities are able to keep mortality rates at less than 1%. However, since the current treatment centre is set up for only 150 patients, the local authorities have asked MSF to provide supplementary infrastructural support for four times the number of patients, as well as support them in their awareness-raising efforts in the most affected neighborhoods to teach the population about proper hygiene practices.

At this time, MSF has installed 14 new tents to provide better treatment conditions for an extra 140 patients a day. Support efforts also include water sanitation activities and the construction of latrines. MSF has also participated in awareness-raising activities in the most affected neighborhoods and is responsible for purifying wells through chlorination of the water supply. The organization has also built water reservoirs in certain quarters where water supply remains an issue.

MSF is also prepared to expand its intervention if requested. Other cholera cases have been declared in other provinces in the country.

In Mozambique, as in other parts of Africa, such cholera epidemics are frequent. Epidemics are costly and cause dramatic disruptions in public health services. It is therefore urgent that new prevention strategies are developed to counter future epidemics. With this in mind, MSF/Epicentre, the Mozambique Ministry of Health, the WHO and the Seoul International Vaccines Institute are currently leading a campaign to test a cholera vaccine in Beira, a high-risk zone and the second largest city in Mozambique.

If the results are positive, especially in terms of the populations' acceptance of the vaccine and in the reduction of new cases, this strategy could well be used in other high-risk zones of the country, or even in other countries. However, the cost of the vaccine will still need to be reduced. Currently Beira is also experiencing a high number of cholera cases, which clearly points to the need for a follow-up vaccination campaign.

In its long-term programs in Mozambique, MSF offers complete medical care to people living with HIV/Aids in the provinces of Maputo Capitale, Niassa and Tete. Working closely in collaboration with the Ministry of Health, MSF is also ready to respond quickly to other medical emergencies such as in the cholera epidemic.