People from the town of Buzi are helped off a boat at Beira Port after being rescued in Beira, Mozambique. Getty Images
Abu Dhabi hospital group to fly aid for 10,000 to cyclone-hit Mozambique
Half a dozen medical staff will travel to the country to treat growing cases of typhoid and malaria
March 31, 2019
Emergency medical supplies and malaria and typhoid treatment for 10,000 people is to be flown to crisis-hit Mozambique by an Abu Dhabi hospital group.
The southern African nation has been devastated by a tropical cyclone that struck on March 15, destroying large swathes of infrastructure.
An estimated death toll of more than 1,000 is expected to rise as flood waters recede.
Hospital group company VPS, one of the largest in the UAE, plans to fly a mobile care unit to the worst hit area in the coming days.
“The plan is to work directly with the Mozambique government to provide medical aid where it is most needed,” said Dr Shamsheer Vayalil, founder of VPS Healthcare.
“There is a lot of confusion on the ground, so we are reliant on them for direction.
This disaster will not be over in a week, so we are anticipating a longer term engagement
Dr Shamsheer Vayalil
“Very few places exist for suitable shelter and no one really knows how many people are in need.”
With about 1.7 million people in the path of Cyclone Idai in Mozambique, the impact has been devastating.
A further 900,000 or so have been affected in the neighbouring of Malawi and Zimbabwe.
Much of the relief effort is now focused on the port city of Beira, where an estimated 500,000 people are thought to have been left homeless.
Emirates Red Crescent this week said the UAE will provide Dh18.3 million in emergency aid to the region.
Cholera has already been reported, with the World Health Organisation co-ordinating efforts in containing the outbreak.
So far, seven cholera treatment clinics have been set up by the WHO, with two more planned.
VPS Healthcare said a shipment of malaria treatment is on order from India to be flown on to Mozambique.
The company is planning to send about Dh500,000 worth of supplies, including 10,000 surgical gloves, 50,000 bandages and other emergency care equipment, as well as expertise.
It is waiting on the green-light from the Mozambique government and to be told where they are most needed.
“We are planning to send one physician, at least three to four nurses and a clinical manager,” said Dr Vayalil.
“They will be there for up to two weeks, and they will likely be based in Beira as that seems where help is most needed.
“We are also trying to source an obstetrician and gynaecologist to aid with maternity care.
“Once we know where we can fly into, we will know where the team can realistically go.
“This disaster will not be over in a week, so we are anticipating a longer term engagement."
VPS launched a similar relief programme in the wake of the 2018 floods in Kerala.
Similar logistical problems await medics due to fly in the next few days. Flooding has washed out roads and bridges, hampering relief efforts.
“The consequence to life have been devastating and Beira, the second city of our country, has been 85 per cent destroyed,” said Tiago Recibo Castigo, Mozambique's ambassador to the UAE
“We are in dire need of humanitarian assistance, so this help from VPS Healthcare is welcome.
“I would prefer to have this medical centre in Beira, but we have the National Institute of Management of Disasters to assess where the major needs are.
“We need medicines, shelter and to feed those people who have been rescued from the dangerous areas.”
Our needs are growing all the time. It is highly challenging logistically
Tiago Recibo Castigo, Mozambique's ambassador to the UAE
The last outbreak of cholera in Mozambique occurred in February 2018. There have been regular outbreaks in the country since 2014, with 2,000 people infected last year, according to the WHO.
Mr Castigo said it could take years for his country to recover from the damage.
“There are still people in danger who need to be rescued, and bodies are still being recovered,” he said.
“We have lost 3,202 classrooms, with 90,756 pupils without anywhere to study.
“We have lost 52 hospitals, with those clinics in rural areas responding to the needs of the population.
“Our needs are growing all the time. It is highly challenging logistically. In the medium term we need to re-establish facilities that have been lost.
“We still need time to quantify exactly what we need, and the rebuilding process will take years.”