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Cyclone Idai: Urgent action needed

Cyclone Idai: Urgent action needed to reduce risk of disease and second disaster

30 March 2019

In response to news reports that the number of cases of cholera in the cyclone devastated city of Beira has risen to 139, Oxfam calls for a well-coordinated effort to prevent and contain cholera and other waterborne diseases. Oxfam cannot confirm the reported cases.

Dorothy Sang, Oxfam’s Humanitarian Advocacy Manager in Beira, said: “Cholera is easy to treat and simple to prevent. The latest reported figures seem to be indicating a sharp rise, but numbers are thankfully still relatively low for now. So far there have not been any confirmed deaths from cholera but nevertheless we need a massive well-coordinated effort to overcome the huge challenges that are preventing relief from getting to people in need. We must get clean water and decent sanitation to people and simple things like soap to keep them safe from disease.

“For the thousands of people who have lost their homes and all their possessions, any break-out of cholera could be devastating. The floods destroyed infrastructure, including water supplies and sewage systems, which means that potentially much of the water supply could have been contaminated.

“Today I saw real life-saving work in action. In the past 24 hours, Oxfam has mobilised trucks, built tap stands and got clean drinking water to over 2,200 people. I spoke to women who had just arrived at the new camps with absolutely nothing – not even a bottle with which to fetch water. They have been forced to bathe themselves and their children in whatever water they could find, often dirty and stagnant, left over from the cyclone. Now they have buckets, soap, and most importantly clean water, to help themselves and their family avoid risks of deadly diseases like cholera.”

Oxfam New Zealand’s Humanitarian Specialist Darren Brunk said Oxfam New Zealand had now launched a full scale appeal to help the many thousands of people affected by the devastating cyclone. “Oxfam is committed to helping southern Africa for as long as it takes,” he said.

“The thousands of people worst-hit by Cyclone Idai could now face a second emergency, with waterborne disease a real risk if the need for clean water, sanitation and hygiene is not met. A lack of enough clean water, temporary toilets, water purification tablets and hygiene kits needs to be addressed rapidly.

“The aid that is beginning to arrive now is very welcome, but we will need much more,” he said.

In a consortium called COSACA – along with CARE and Save the Children - Oxfam is responding to prevent and contain cholera and other waterborne diseases including by trucking clean water into camps, promoting good hygiene to communities and distributing Certeza, a water-purification liquid. Oxfam is part of the cholera task force and will shortly begin hygiene promotion activities in the Munhava area where the cholera cases have been confirmed. In the next few days, Oxfam will fly 38 tons of water and sanitation equipment from our Bicester warehouse in the UK on a chartered flight directly to Beira. This will include over a thousand of latrine slabs to build emergency toilets, over 20 water bladder tanks to collect and store fresh water, 10,000 Oxfam jerry buckets to transport and keep water clean and safe, 3 desludging pumps with generators and over a hundred tap stands.

Donations to support Oxfam’s emergency response to Cyclone Idai in southern Africa can be made online at oxfam.org.nz/idai.


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