Southern Africa: Cyclone Freddy aftermath brings diseases, healthcare gaps

By World Health Organization

Southern Africa: Cyclone Freddy aftermath brings diseases, healthcare gaps

Southern African countries hit hard by tropical Cyclone Freddy are reeling from disease outbreaks, with health services stretched to the limit, the World Health Organization (WHO) said.

The devastation caused by the cyclone in Madagascar, Malawi, and Mozambique has increased the spread of cholera and malaria, as well as malnutrition. Meanwhile, more than 300 health facilities have been destroyed or flooded in the three countries, limiting healthcare access.

The cyclone’s destruction increased public health risks including a surge in the spread of cholera, malaria, malnutrition, COVID-19, and other vaccine-treatable diseases. WHO said that Malawi was still in the midst of its “worst-ever” cholera outbreak, although cases are declining. In Mozambique, cholera cases have more than doubled over the past week, to almost 2,400.

“With a double landfall in less than a month, the impact of Cyclone Freddy is immense and deepfelt. While we work to understand the full extent of the devastation, our priority is to ensure that affected communities and families receive health assistance for immediate needs as well as to limit the risks of water-borne diseases and other infections spreading,” said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director for Africa.

Helping communities prepare for climatic hazards

Overall, flooding, and torrential rains have affected more than 1.4 million people in the three countries. WHO and partners are providing support in the form of cholera treatment centers, medical supplies, and health worker training.

WHO has provided U$7.9 million and sent over 60 experts to the affected countries to assist with the emergency response. Around 184 tons of important medical supplies have been shipped to support the cyclone and cholera emergency response. In Malawi, WHO has redistributed cholera response operation centers to hotspot districts, to help disease control efforts.

“With the rise in climate-related health emergencies in Africa, it’s clear that more needs to be done to bolster preparedness for climatic hazards so that communities can better cope with the impacts of the devastating natural disasters,” said Dr. Moeti.

The cholera outbreaks are currently affecting 14 African countries and are being made worse by extreme climate events and conflicts that leave countries more vulnerable. Many people have been forced to flee their homes, to face uncertain living conditions.