On the 14th and 15th of March 2019, Mozambique was hit by a deadly, category 2 storm. Cyclone IDAI devastated the provinces of Sofala, Inhambane, Zambezia, and Manica, disrupting thousands of lives. A state of emergency was declared by the president on the 19th March and a request for international assistance was made.
Our CEO David Wightwick and Health Programs Manager Rachel Fletcher arrived in Mozambique as a part of the UK’s Department for International development (DFID’s) assessment support team, with our partners Humanity Inclusion (HI), Fire & Rescue Service (FRS) and Palladium from within the UK Emergency Medical Team (EMT) partnership. Both David and Rachel were soon seconded into vital World Health Organisation (WHO) coordination roles. David headed up the health response from Beira, whilst Rachel worked to coordinate various Emergency Medical Teams that had been invited to provide clinical assistance in-country.
Rachel provided technical oversight and coordination of the international teams, particularly the management of the referral pathway development and onsite quality assurance visits to the teams with the Ministry of health (MoH). She also worked in close partnership with WHO AFRO Regional Focal Point for EMTs, as well as other seconded team members from HI and the Japanese international cooperation agency JICA EMT.
Many of the health facilities within the five main affected districts of Beira, Nhmantanda, Dondo, Buzi and Muanza, had experienced either partial damage or were totally destroyed as result of either the cyclone or flood (see example photo below of a District hospital). Several areas within Beira also had restricted or limited access for several weeks, whilst the flood waters were receding. The only way to deliver basic aid to the area was though air hops Helicopters that dropped essential materials such as food, water and shelter. Several mobile medical teams supported health care delivery by being dropped in remote areas by the air ops team.
During the activation of the EMTCC (emergency medical team coordination cell), the WHO EMT Minimum Data Sets (MDS) was approved for use by the MoH in Mozambique and it was its first real time test in practice. The MDS was a great success. It was in alignment with early warning alert response systems EWARS and was also sensitive enough to be able to pick up issues that helped drive the operational decisions of the team.
There were fears of a large-scale cholera outbreak, however the roll out of a vast vaccination and treatment programme prevented this – although multiple health threats remain, including major disease outbreak. More than 1200 vaccinators in around 300 sites reached more than 800 000 people in four high-risk districts in just six days.
This is an important aspect of UK-Med’s work, providing short-term expertise and experienced coordination staff in order to assist with the overall humanitarian response.