By the time the cholera outbreak in Beira was officially declared on March 27, MSF and the Ministry of Health had construction underway for three purpose-built cholera treatment centers with a combined capacity of about 350 beds, in addition to two cholera treatment units in use at the time. Smaller units were then set up in the remote town of Buzi, as well as in Dondo, Mafambisse, Matua, and Tica, on the road between Beira and the inland city of Chimoio. These centers were designed not only to care for existing patients, but also to prepare for a possible exponential increase in new patients contracting cholera.
“Cholera is highly infectious and can spread incredibly fast in a crowded urban area like Beira,” explains Anja Wolz, MSF emergency coordinator in Beira. “Alongside the Ministry of Health, we planned to have at least 350 beds available quickly and to be able to stretch to 1,000 if needed. We had to prepare for the worst while knowing that if we did things properly, and in partnership with the community, the worst might not come.”
The combined MSF and Ministry of Health teams have so far treated over 3,400 cholera patients in the flood affected region.
MSF has also provided logistical, technical, and planning support to the Ministry of Health for a cholera vaccination campaign in Beira, Dondo, Nhamatanda, and Buzi. MSF teams are responsible for helping to ensure that the vaccines are stored and transported correctly, arrive at the vaccination sites on time, and that the teams have everything they need to administer nearly 900,000 doses of the vaccine.
“We are not ready to say that we have beaten this outbreak, because we still have new patients arriving,” says Anja Wolz, MSF’s emergency coordinator in Beira. “But from what we see, the number of suspected cholera cases is heading in the right direction. Thanks to the vaccination campaign and the huge community response we believe we can soon bring this outbreak under control.”