UNICEF launches massive vaccination programme for 900,000 children and adults in Mozambique, as critical shipment arrives

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UNICEF launches massive vaccination programme for 900,000 children and adults in Mozambique, as critical shipment arrives

As cholera cases surpass 1,000, UNICEF intensifies efforts to protect children and contain potential outbreak of deadly water-borne diseases

UNICEF Ireland Executive Director Peter Power visited affected areas near Beira, Mozambique last weekend and is available for interview

Photos of vaccines being unloaded are available here

BEIRA/GENEVA/DUBLIN, 2 April 2019 – A massive vaccination programme targeting nearly 900,000 children and adults is set to get underway in Mozambique, after a huge shipment of vaccinations arrived in the country on Tuesday afternoon April 2nd. Amid increasing fears of a serious outbreak of water-borne diseases in the aftermath of the recent cyclone, UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO) purchased and shipped hundreds of thousands of cholera vaccines and are rushing to set up cholera treatment centres in affected areas. The vaccines are funded by Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance.

The National Health Ministry in Mozambique has confirmed 1,052 cases of cholera in the aftermath of Cyclone Idai. The large majority of these (959 cases) are in Beira where one death has also been confirmed, followed by Nhamatanda (87 cases). The disease is spreading rapidly.

After visiting some of the worst hit communities near the port city of Beira last weekend, UNICEF Ireland Executive Director Peter Power said the dangers faced by children in the country continue to grow. “The shipment that landed today contains 884,953 doses of Oral Cholera Vaccine. This is the scale of the emergency we are dealing with. When you see stagnant water still sitting there beside homes and communities, you fear the worst in terms of water-borne diseases like cholera and diarrhoea. These pools can contain extremely harmful bacteria and often become deadly breeding grounds for mosquitos and other parasites, that carry diseases like malaria. This is a very worrying situation for children and families and we have to move fast before we see a potentially devastating outbreak.”

Cyclone Idai is the worst natural disaster to hit southern Africa in nearly two decades and the massive size of the shipment presents real challenges. “We have set up cholera treatment centres throughout the region and the job now is to get the vaccines out as soon as possible. This will be very challenging for our teams and partners. Roads are still cut off in many remote areas and communication networks are not yet fully restored,” said Power.

Alongside the vaccination campaign, ensuring access to clean water and providing up to date information is critical in preventing disease spreading. Humanitarian teams are acting quickly to raise awareness in communities about symptoms and prevention methods, including hygiene practices and the important need for vaccinations, particularly in the current conditions which include stagnant water and overcrowding in temporary shelters.

“It is vitally important, in the fight against disease, that safe drinking water is available in all affected areas. Last week our teams helped restore the water system in Beira, a city of 500,000 people. This saved countless lives and now it’s critical more water systems throughout the region are brought back online. Additionally, as we carry out the vaccination campaign, one of the most important things we can do is provide communities and families with the right information. It might sound simple. But during disasters like this, spreading the word, especially to remote communities, about how people can protect themselves and their families, can literally be life-saving work,” said Power.

Five-hundred beds in seven cholera treatment centres across the affected area have been set up by UNICEF, WHO and partners, along with the Provincial Directorate of Health. Cholera is an acute diarrheal disease that can kill within hours if left untreated. It is largely caused by the ingestion of contaminated food and water. The burden of cholera is disproportionately carried by children and vulnerable groups.

Right now across Mozambique, 1.85 million people are in urgent need of assistance, including 1 million children. Beira is Mozambique’s second largest port and has seen critical infrastructure damage and heavy flooding in urban areas. Many remote communities to the west of Beira are still affected by flood waters and damage to crops has devastated the country’s agricultural production, affecting the livelihoods of over 400,000 farmers.

Across the entire region of Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe, an estimated 3 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance in the wake of the disaster. UNICEF Ireland has launched an emergency fundraising appeal for children and families impacted. More information on the appeal can be found at www.unicef.ie

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Contacts

Danny Smits, UNICEF Ireland, +353 87 1308070, danny@unicef.ie