Cholera cases mount to over 1,000 in cyclone-hit Mozambique

A young girl splashes water on her body at a watering point in Beira, Mozambique, Monday, April, 1, 2019. (AP)
Updated 02 April 2019
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Cholera cases mount to over 1,000 in cyclone-hit Mozambique

  • “The next few weeks are crucial and speed is of the essence if we are to save lives and limit suffering,” WHO chief for Africa, Matshidiso Moeti, said in the statement

MAPUTO: Cholera has infected at least 1,052 people in Mozambique’s cyclone-hit region, the health ministry said Monday in a new report, marking a massive increase from 139 cases reported four days ago.
The mounting cases represent on average more than 200 cases of new infections each day.
Although hundreds have been taken ill with cholera since last week, only one death has been reported so far, tallies compiled by the ministry showed.
A mass vaccination campaign is due to be rolled out on Wednesday as authorities and aid workers are scrambling to avert an epidemic more than two weeks after a devastating cyclone slammed Mozambique.
Some 900,000 doses of oral cholera vaccines were due to arrive in the cyclone-battered Beira city on Tuesday, from the global stockpile for emergency, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
“Vaccination against cholera begins on Wednesday in Beira,” a senior Mozambican health official Ussein Isse said.
The central city of Beira is the worst affected, accounting for 959 out of the total 1,052 cases.
The city of more than half-a-million people recorded 247 cases in 24 hours between Sunday and Monday morning.
Cholera is transmitted through contaminated drinking water or food and causes acute diarrhea.
The numbers of cholera cases is expected to rise due to the increasing numbers of people reporting to health centers with symptoms, said the WHO in a statement.
“The next few weeks are crucial and speed is of the essence if we are to save lives and limit suffering,” WHO chief for Africa, Matshidiso Moeti, said in the statement.
Cyclone Idai killed more than 700 people across Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe and hundreds of thousands have been left homeless — many of whom have been forced to use dirty water supplies. At least 518 of those deaths have occured in Mozambique.
Experts have warned that the destruction of drinking water sources and lack of sanitation in overcrowded shelters in Mozambique create breeding grounds for waterborne diseases such as cholera.
To control the outbreak, vast quantities of drinking water and water purification units have been delivered to affected areas.
A publicity blitz to raise awareness of the cholera situation is also under way.
More than 146,000 people have been displaced from their homes by the cyclone and subsequent floods are are sheltering in 155 sites across four provinces of Sofala, Manica, Zambezia and Tete, according to the UN.


UN gives Myanmar aid cut warning over Rohingya camp closures

Updated 18 June 2019
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UN gives Myanmar aid cut warning over Rohingya camp closures

  • Myanmar has closed several camps holding around 9,000 Rohingya
  • They have not been allowed to return to their former homes and remain dependent on handouts

YANGON: The UN has warned it will pare back aid to thousands of Rohingya Muslims left destitute as Myanmar’s government closes camps in Rakhine state, over fears its continued support “risks entrenching segregation.”
Aid agencies are facing an increasingly sharp dilemma in the region as they balance relief for desperate communities with leverage over the government.
The majority of Myanmar’s Rohingya were driven into Bangladesh by a 2017 army crackdown, but around 400,000 remain inside conflict-battered Rakhine.
Those include nearly 130,000 held since 2012 in squalid camps, currently supported by UN agencies and humanitarian groups.
As part of its strategy to address the crisis, Myanmar has closed several camps holding around 9,000 Rohingya.
But they have not been allowed to return to their former homes and remain dependent on handouts. Instead, they are being settled in new accommodation close to the former camps.
That has sparked fears aid agencies are effectively being used to prop-up a policy that fails to address the fundamental needs of the Rohingya, including housing, work, food and security.
The camp closure plan “risks entrenching segregation,” UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Myanmar Knut Ostby wrote to the government in a leaked letter, dated 6 June and seen by AFP.
The letter, also written on behalf of aid groups, warned support “beyond life-saving assistance” at the closed sites would in future be linked to “tangible” progress made on “the fundamental issue of freedom of movement.”
“Life-saving” support includes food, health and water, but site planning, shelter construction and education facilities could be phased out, aid agency sources told AFP.
The UN has faced criticism for a slow response to violence against the Rohingya, which escalated after 2012 riots between Muslim Rohingyas and ethnic Rakhine Buddhists.
A UN report released Monday admitted “systemic failures” in its handling of the build-up to the Rohingya crisis.
Limited access to Rakhine’s camps makes independent reporting on conditions difficult.
But AFP has reviewed recent interviews conducted in five camps by an NGO requesting anonymity to protect its work.
“If I build a house, it can be seized arbitrarily,” one Rohingya man said.
“I have no right to the land and I can also be arrested at any time.”
An aid worker called the remaining 23 sites in Rakhine little more than “concentration camps.”
On condition of anonymity, she spoke of the “complicity” humanitarian staff feel for perpetuating the segregation.
Amnesty International has described Rakhine as an “apartheid state.”
All aid must be “heavily conditioned,” researcher Laura Haigh said, warning donors that building infrastructure could make them complicit in crimes against humanity.
The government defended the camp closures, telling AFP it would continue working with the UN and NGOs on the issue.
Any former camp resident holding a National Verification Card (NVC) will be able to “move freely within their township” and access “education, health facilities and livelihood activities,” the social welfare ministry said.
Most Rohingya refuse to apply for the card believing they should already be treated as full citizens.
Those interviewed said the few to have caved had no more rights than anyone else.
They were also forced to designate themselves as “Bengali,” a term implying they are from Bangladesh.
“They are just trying to dominate us and make us illegal through different ways,” one Rohingya man said.