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Mozambique: ICRC director of operations says combined impact of conflict and extreme weather in Cabo Delgado threatens public health

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Mozambique: ICRC director of operations says combined impact of conflict and extreme weather in Cabo Delgado threatens public health

I think it’s very important to pay very serious attention to what’s going on here, especially in northern Mozambique

GENEVA, Switzerland, October 11, 2021 / APO Group / –

The massive displacement in Cabo Delgado in Mozambique’s northern province has strained existing water and health facilities, some of which had already been damaged by extreme weather events. As a result, a worrying shortage of safe drinking water, sanitation and health services poses an imminent threat to the public health of internally displaced people and host communities.

“A lot of people depend on this type of water and it is certainly not up to public health standards,” said Dominik Stillhart, director of operations for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), who is on a mission. three days. visit to Cabo Delgado. “I think it’s very important to pay very serious attention to what’s going on here, especially in northern Mozambique.”

Mozambique is increasingly confronted with the worsening impact of armed conflict and climate change in recent years, which has adverse consequences on the health of the population. Recurring and more frequent cyclones and flooding damaged health and water facilities, such as Ibo Hospital, which was the only health facility serving the archipelago. More than 800,000 people, or one-third of the province’s total population, have fled their homes as the armed conflict escalates, finding refuge in urban areas and on islands. Displaced people frequently settle on the outskirts of towns, outside the coverage of water distribution networks.

Rapid population movements and limited access to safe water sources in precarious neighborhoods have led to the rise of water-borne diseases such as cholera and diarrhea. The ICRC has observed a correlation between the concentration of groups of displaced people, the absence of protected water sources and the spread of water-borne diseases. According to the WHO, the number of cholera cases in Cabo Delgado at the start of August 2021 was 3,400, up from around 2,200 at the same time last year. In the first half of 2021, 28,602 cases of diarrhea were recorded in the province, of which 40% of cases were recorded in districts where the ICRC has concentrated its work, such as Montepuez and Ibo islands. Diarrhea has become the second leading cause of death in children under five. COVID represents an additional risk, in part related to poor hygiene.

The lack of functioning health facilities has reduced the ability of the health system to detect and respond to epidemics. 80% of health centers in the nine northern districts most affected by the conflict of Cabo Delgado are not functioning. The already fragile health infrastructure has been further weakened as a result of the armed conflict, even as demand for health services has increased by 20-30% in the southern areas of Cabo Delgado province hosting displaced people . Overcrowded health facilities struggle with lack of space, overcrowding, and a lack of staff and medical supplies.

The ICRC is working with local authorities to rehabilitate existing water and health infrastructure, as well as to build new ones, to improve access to health and clean water and to prevent the spread of deadly diseases. , both on the mainland – for example in the town of Montepuez – as well as on the islands. The ICRC is building a new hospital in Ibo which will serve the entire 30-island archipelago. Because Mozambique’s coastal areas are vulnerable to climatic shocks, all new ICRC rehabilitation and construction projects are systematically designed and built with resilient infrastructure to avoid potential damage from natural disasters as much as possible.

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