The heavy rain, which has been falling in recent days in the southern region of Mozambique, associated with the opening of floodgates in neighboring South Africa and in the Kingdom of Eswatini due to the rising water levels of the Incomate and Umbeluzi rivers, is causing major negative impacts on the lives of the population.
Several families have lost their possessions, including domestic animals, houses and crops. In other words, homes were totally flooded, including furniture and other utensils.
Figures released on Tuesday by Mozambican President, Filipe Nyusi, point to 39,225 people affected, corresponding to 7,845 families, with over 21,000 people concentrated in Maputo city and 18,010 people in Maputo province.
The district of Boane, in Maputo province, with around 13,000 people, was the most affected, among the districts of Manhiça, Magude, Namaacha, Matutuine and Moamba.
According to the President, in Maputo city and province, 28 houses were partially destroyed, three totally destroyed and 7,612 flooded.
Health infrastructures did not escape the fury of the waters. This is was one of the sectors that suffered most from the natural disasters, whose incidence has been increasing in recent years. Natural phenomena, according to Nyusi, cause physical and psychological traumas, as well as an increase in cases of malaria and diarrheal diseases, including cholera.
Regarding cholera outbreak, since September 2022 until 13 February, 4,400 cases were reported, of which 3,869 were reported in 2023. In the same period, 32 deaths were recorded, of which 24 were reported in 2023.
The number of districts affected by cholera has increased in the last week by 26 districts.
As regards malaria, in the last quarter of 2022, about 2.9 million cases were registered, compared to 2.2 million in the same period of 2021. In the same period, the number of deaths increased from 71 to 83. From January to date, about 1.4 million cases and 35 deaths from malaria have been recorded.
The statesman also said that the health sector is implementing a mitigation and response plan for diseases prevalent in the rainy season, with particular emphasis on diarrheal diseases, cholera and malaria.
DEALING WITH THE SITUATION ON THE GROUND
However, the Citizen Observatory for Health (OCS), on the ground, during a visit to five centers for flood victims in the town of Boane, found out the lack of medical assistance for the affected populations.
For example, the center installed at the 3 de Fevereiro Primary School in Campuane Povoação, had no health professional to assist the victims, even though the assistance was urgent due to the crowd.
The absence of community health activists and Elementary Polyvalent Agents (EPA’s), very crucial entities to provide assistance to the population, was also noted.
On the ground, the OCS observed that 77 families had been sheltered, including children, young people, men and women and pregnant women. These people lacked sanitary conditions for personal hygiene.
As explained by the community leader of Campuane Povoação, José Chacate, the toilets of the 3 de Fevereiro Primary School could not be used because they had no water supply, and in case of physiological needs, the families go to their homes.
“We recognize that the conditions we are in, with the lack of toilets, pave the way for contamination by various diseases. But we have no other option. We have pregnant women who need primary care, but we have no doctors. At this moment, we have 24 hours without drinking water”, he stressed.
For her part, Alzira Eduardo, one of the pregnant women, who was welcomed at the center on 3 February, said there should be a health professional nearby for any eventuality.
Other centers are located at Eng. Filipe Jacinto Nyusi Secondary School, Campuane, Joaquim Chissano Secondary School, Boane Secondary School and Mabanja Primary School, all in the town of Boane.
On average, the reception centers house about a thousand people. Similarly, to the reception center on 3 February, in Boane Secondary School, there was no health professional, and in case of any problem requiring assistance, families had to go to Joaquim Chissano Secondary School, where the National Institute of Health (INS) positioned a mobile clinic, in addition to staff from the Ministry of Health and the non-governmental organization Ariel Foundation, to provide the necessary assistance.
The Eng. Filipe Jacinto Nyusi Secondary School center, as far as the OCS found, was the only one that presented the minimum conditions for the provision of first health care to those affected.
The other reception centers, despite also having health professionals, were not in sufficient number to cope with the demand from displaced families. Likewise, it was found that there was a lack of basic medicines and other health inputs.
“We have almost everything, I can’t deny it. We don’t lack food, where to sleep, although we put our capulanas (cloth) on the floor. we need mosquito nets, as well as antidiarrheals to prevent us from diseases” said Manuel Cabinde, one of the flood victims and resident of the Campuane neighborhood.
In addition to this problem, the lack of medicines is another constraint. Anastácia Cabral is one of the victims who was affected by the situation, “because one of my sons was ill and when taken to the assistance, the professionals informed him that there were no medicines and that he should wait until they were made available by the district health services.”
URGENT INTEGRATED PLANNING IS NECESSARY
On these findings, the OCS concluded in the first instance that the country does not have an effective contingency plan because it has been plaguing the people continuously.
The lessons of the past should serve as learning and a model to avoid worse situations such as those currently experienced. On the other hand, there is an urgent need for sectoral planning to mitigate these situations.
The construction of infrastructures in risk areas also shows the lack of intervention by the Government. It makes no sense that an infrastructure is raised in these areas and then it is said that it should not have been built. Where are the authorities before the construction of the infrastructures?
In Mozambique, natural disasters are cyclical and almost every year the affected areas are the same. The fact that we have the same people suffering from the same problems, including the loss of human lives, represents the inexistence of a contingency plan capable of responding to these situations. For the OCS, integrated planning can help mitigate the catastrophic impacts of these phenomena.