‘No way home’: the human face of a Moz buckled by Idai
Already stretched hospitals cannot cope as toll is set to hit 1,000 and cholera and other diseases are 'inevitable'
Nelson Charova lies on a weatherworn bench outside a dilapidated ward at the Beira Central Hospital as flies settle on his face.
A surgical tube stitched into his stomach rests loosely on the floor beside him, a sheet the only comfort in the stifling heat.
In the wake of Cyclone Idai and the ensuing deluge, the hospital has become ground zero for the wounded from villages and towns across the vast floodplain.
Among them was Charova, who was injured in a car accident when he fled his village of Mafambisse on the outskirts of the city.
“All I can do is wait here. I have been staying here for a week and now I have to see when my doctor is going to come,” he said.
The disaster left nearly 500 people dead in Mozambique, with the toll expected to rise to more than 1,000 in three countries affected by the deluge.
The damage to hospitals and clinics across the city has constrained an already stressed healthcare system, with fears of an outbreak of waterborne diseases mounting as the relief effort enters its second week.
Now Charova lies stranded in the hospital, unsure if he has a home to return to.
Mozambique’s minister of land and rural development, Celso Correia, said an outbreak of cholera was virtually inevitable.
“We will have cholera and we will have malaria. Unfortunately, there is really no question about that in this situation. The state is opening a cholera treatment centre already and we have teams on the ground who are monitoring the appearance of these diseases.
With roads leading away from Beira repaired, state officials have been sent to far-flung villages to assess the human cost, and the risk of further deaths from disease.
In the city and its peripheries, 110,000 people have sought refuge in transit camps, while 530,000 people have been affected, by their count.
Correia said the death toll remained at 446, the caveat being that some areas remained isolated.
“Our top priority now is saving lives and getting to these isolated areas and delivering the aid that they need.”
NGO Gift of the Givers, along with the South African National Defence Force’s medical arm, has deployed to render aid, treating those injured in the floods and those already sick.
Before the cyclone, Mozambique grappled with a critically under-resourced healthcare system, with most of the population living in abject poverty.
The World Health Organisation reported that in 2008, 75% of the public healthcare budget was funded by external aid.
The report indicated that the country’s burden of disease was largely a consequence of high levels of poverty and infectious and communicable diseases.
“Poor access to primary healthcare facilities has made it difficult for government efforts to effectively deal with the situation,” it said.
Charova now finds himself the victim of a system already struggling to deal with the influx of those in desperate need of medical care.
“There is no way for me to go home and there was no doctor for me, so all I can do is wait here. Even when the doctor comes I don’t know how I will go home.”