Mozambique: First cholera cases confirmed in city ravaged by Cyclone Idai

Five cases were found in Beira, the port city hardest hit by the hurricane

Children carry drinking water over debris created by Cyclone Idai at Peacock Growth Point in Chimanimani, on the border with Mozambique, Zimbabwe March 22, 2019. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

Five cases of cholera were confirmed in the cyclone-ravaged port city of Beira in Mozambique on Wednesday, raising fears of an outbreak that threatens to escalate an already climbing death toll.

About 700 people were killed across southern Africa when Cyclone Idai hit Mozambique in the middle of the night on March 14, before continuing its path through to Zimbabwe and Malawi.

But now, in the wake of the disaster, relief agencies are struggling to respond to the ensuing health crisis.

"We did the lab tests and can confirm that these five people tested positive for cholera," said Ussein Isse, a senior Mozambican health official. "It will spread. When you have one case, you have to expect more cases in the community."

Health workers were also battling 2,700 cases of acute watery diarrhoea – which could be a symptom of cholera – Mr Isse said. The government had organised a treatment centre for cholera in Beira hospital, he added.

Devastation from the hurricane has damaged food supplies, and cut off clean water and sanitary facilities.

The World Health Organisation is dispatching 900,000 doses of oral cholera vaccine to affected areas from a global stockpile.

The organisation is also setting up three cholera treatment centres and preparing for an increase in malaria in the country.

The death toll in Mozambique from Cyclone Idai has risen to 468, a Mozambican disaster management official said. That takes the total number of deaths in Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi above 700 people, with many more missing.