by Agence France-Presse (AFP)
The death toll from Cyclone Idai, which devastated Mozambique and Zimbabwe last month, is nearing 1,000, according to the latest figures released by the two governments.
Zimbabwe on Tuesday updated its toll to 344 while Mozambique said recorded fatalities stood at 602, taking the combined tally to 946.
Trail of destruction left by Cyclone Idai
Zimbabwean Information Minister Monica Mutsvangwa told reporters that 257 people listed as missing when heavy winds and floods struck the country on the night of March 14-15 were now considered dead.
“The search and recovery process is now confined to recovery. The missing persons can now be presumed dead,” she said.
More than two million people — 1.85 million of them in Mozambique — were affected by Idai.
The UN has described the cyclone as “one of the deadliest storms on record” in the southern hemisphere.”
It is seeking $282 million (251 million euros) to fund emergency assistance over the next three months.
Before the cyclone hit, floods in Malawi affected about 900,000 people and claimed 60 lives, according to the government.
A cholera vaccination campaign was launched in Mozambique’s central city of Beira after the cyclone slammed into the region and unleashed an outbreak of cholera, authorities said.
International relief agencies and the health ministry are hoping to immunise nearly 900,000 people against the water-borne intestinal disease, which has already killed two people and infected more than 1,700.
Around 313 new cases, mostly in the coastal city of Beira, were reported on Wednesday, bringing the total number of infections to 1,741.
The vaccination target represents around 80 percent of the people affected by the cyclone, said Marie Benigna, a deputy director in the health ministry.
“With this number of people vaccinated, it will greatly reduce the spread of the disease,” she said at the launch of the drive.
Cholera is transmitted through contaminated drinking water or food and causes acute diarrhoea. It is especially dangerous for infants.
Cyclone Idai hit the coast of central Mozambique on March 15 with hurricane-force winds and rains flooding the hinterland and drenching eastern Zimbabwe.
Destruction of water systems and sanitation infrastructure has created “perfect conditions for cholera to spread,” said Seth Berkley, CEO of the vaccine alliance Gavi, which provided the doses.
“The oral cholera vaccine is a vital emergency measure that will help save lives and stop the spread of this horrible disease,” said World Health Organization (WHO) chief Tedros Ghebreyesus.
The vaccinations will be administered at health centres, shelters for the displaced and at schools and markets.