One week after Cyclone Freddy made landfall for a second time in Mozambique, creating severe disruption to critical services, the threat of cholera is growing rapidly for children and families. Thanks to preparation efforts by Government, the number of deaths and people displaced by the cyclone appears to have been lower than for past cyclones of similar magnitude. But flooding caused by Cyclone Freddy, compounded by interruption of water, sanitation and hygiene services, is driving a rapid acceleration in cholera case numbers. Reported cases have almost quadrupled – to almost 10,700 – since early February and more than 2300 cases have been reported during the past week alone.
A total of 36 districts across eight provinces of Mozambique are currently experiencing active cholera outbreaks, with Inhambane and Zambezia, the provinces impacted by Cyclone Freddy on its first and second impacts, now both declaring outbreaks. In addition to the risk of cholera, UNICEF is greatly concerned about the strong likelihood of an increase in cases of other waterborne diseases like diarrhoea, as well as malaria, diseases which number among the leading causes of child mortality. With health and nutrition services seriously disrupted in many locations in the aftermath of the cyclone, the risk of death and disease for children increases further.
“We are now facing a very real risk of a rapidly accelerating cholera outbreak in Mozambique, a disease which is particularly dangerous for young children, especially those who are malnourished,” said Maria Luisa Fornara, UNICEF Representative to Mozambique. “UNICEF is working closely with Government to urgently restore access to health, water, hygiene and sanitation interventions to areas hit by the cyclone, but additional support is needed to meet the rapidly growing needs of children and families.”
UNICEF is already working with UN and civil society partners, in support of Government, to respond to cholera and the impacts of Cyclone Freddy and flooding. UNICEF has provided over US $1.2 million in health and WASH supplies in 2023, as well as technical support and financial support to the Government and NGO partners. UNICEF supported a cholera vaccination campaign which reached 720,000 people in February and is facilitating the procurement of an additional 1.36 million vaccines, for delivery in the coming weeks. UNICEF is also distributing critical supplies including water purification, treatment and storage supplies, hygiene kits, disinfectant and soap.
UNICEF is also supporting efforts to ensure students quickly regain access to learning. Estimates from the Mozambique National Institute of Disaster Risk Management (INGD) suggest that more than 1500 classrooms have been destroyed by Cyclone Freddy, causing disruption to learning for more than 134,000 students. None of the 1025 climate-resilient classrooms constructed since 2019 with UNICEF support suffered damage during Cyclone Freddy, demonstrating the importance of investing in climate-resilient infrastructure.
UNICEF’s funding requirements are more than US $50 million to respond to the immediate needs and recovery of children and families affected by Cyclone Freddy, flooding and cholera, providing lifesaving supplies, services, and technical support in water, sanitation, and hygiene; health; education; nutrition; child and social protection, and recovery efforts, with behaviour change interventions integrated across all sectors.