Governments and humanitarian agencies have warned of the risk of water-borne diseases in the wake of Cyclone Idai. The death toll has risen above 750 in Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi which Idai hit March 14. Aid workers are trying to restore electricity and water and prevent outbreaks of cholera, which is already endemic in Mozambique. Cholera is spread by water contaminated by sewage, and can kill within hours if left untreated.Since sanitation systems have been destroyed by the cyclone, thousands of people may be exposed to the infection.
UNICEF reported last week that stagnant water and decomposing bodies, as well as lack of sanitation and clean drinking water have created a risk of outbreaks of malaria and cholera. In addition, four cases of typhoid have been reported in Dombe about 300 km west of the port city of Beira.
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) also reported that cases of cholera have been recorded, and warned of the risk of other outbreaks, already noting an increase in malaria.
"There is growing concern among aid groups on the ground of potential disease outbreaks," an IFRC statement said. "Already, some cholera cases have been reported in Beira (Mozambique) along with an increasing number of malaria infections among people trapped by the flooding."
Some 1.7 million people are said to be affected across southern Africa, with no electricity or running water in areas where homes have been swept away and roads destroyed by the floods.
Aid workers are slowly delivering relief but conditions are said to be extremely difficult, with some areas completely inaccessible and a scarcity of helicopters.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has appealed to member nations for stepped up support for victims saying "far greater international support is needed" and the UN World Food Program (WFP) declared the flood crisis a level-three emergency, on a par with Yemen, Syria and South Sudan.