The number of confirmed cases of cholera in Mozambique’s port city of Beira jumped from five to 138 on Friday in the aftermath of Cyclone Idai.
Government and aid agencies have battled to contain the spread of the water-borne disease among the tens of thousands of survivors of the storm.
Cyclone Idai smashed into Beira on March 14, causing catastrophic flooding. Over 700 people were killed across three countries in southeast Africa and hundreds of thousands displaced.
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.
“We expected this, we were prepared for this, we’ve doctors in place,” Correia told reporters.
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.
The focus now among health workers is containing the threat of cholera and other diseases including typhoid and malaria, with the immediate search and rescue operation coming to a close.
This comes as Mozambique’s President Filipe Nyusi announced Friday that the search and rescue operation to find survivors from Cyclone Idai, which hit two weeks ago, is now over.
Speaking from the port city of Beira, where the cyclone made landfall on 14 March, the president said: “The team remains vigilant on the ground and ready to intervene whenever the situation demands.”