Mar 23, 2023
Cyclone Freddy Deepens Risks for Infectious Diseases in Africa
(Bloomberg) -- A tropical cyclone that hit Southern Africa twice and destroyed health facilities and homes has left the subcontinent at risk of a surge in cholera, malaria and other infectious diseases.
“With a double landfall in less than a month, the impact of Cyclone Freddy is immense and deep-felt,” Matshidiso Moeti, the World Health Organization’s regional director for Africa, said in a briefing Thursday. “Our priority is to ensure that affected communities and families receive health assistance for immediate needs as well as to limit the risks of water-borne diseases and other infections spreading.”
The storm has wrecked or flooded more than 300 hospitals and clinics in Madagascar, Malawi and Mozambique as well as forcing people from their homes. That means that communities already strained by poverty and a lack of resources have even less access to the help they need amid increasing public health risks. These include the accelerated spread of illnesses such as cholera, malaria and Covid-19, as well as malnutrition.
More widely, 14 countries on the continent are experiencing cholera outbreaks as climate change, armed conflict and large gaps in vaccination due to the Covid-19 pandemic have added to the risk in communities that have low pre-existing immunity. Treatment for other infectious diseases, including HIV and tuberculosis, has also been stunted.
Tanzania reported its first outbreak of the deadly Marburg virus this week, while in the central African nation of Equatorial Guinea the hemorrhagic fever is seen to have claimed 27 lives in less than six weeks. New cases have been reported from regions about 150 kilometers (93 miles) apart, suggesting wider transmission of the virus, the WHO said. The areas also border with Cameroon and Gabon.
“With the rise in climate-related health emergencies in Africa, it’s clear that more needs to be done to bolster preparedness to climatic hazards so that communities can better cope with the impacts of the devastating natural disasters,” Moeti said.
(WHO updates death toll in fifth paragraph)
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