Last Friday I visited Beira, one of the worst-affected areas that was hit by Tropical Cyclone Idai.
The devastation is enormous
More than 100 000 people have lost their homes and all of their possessions. Families, pregnant women, babies are living in temporary camps in horrific conditions, without secure food supplies, or safe drinking water and sanitation.
Around 55 health centres have been severely damaged. I visited the central hospital in Beira where I saw the direct impact of the cyclone. The flooding had damaged essential equipment and the facility is unable to receive patients during this crucial time. As an example, surgical theatre and nursery completely damaged.
Official death toll is more than 446 but we expect the real numbers to be much higher. 1.8 million people in Mozambique need urgent humanitarian assistance.
For WHO, health is our number one priority now
We must not let these people suffer a second disaster through a serious disease outbreak or inability to access essential health services. They have suffered enough.
WHO’s Director General, Dr Tedros has called for a “no regrets” approach – this means that we are doing whatever it takes to address the crisis, investing all the available resources now to save lives and protect health.
We are building up a surge team of over 40 staff from across the Organization, with expertise in logistics, epidemiology, and outbreak prevention and response.
We have a number of key priorities right now. First to set up an early warning disease detection system so that we can respond rapidly as soon as an outbreak is suspected. Then we need to ensure that, as resources come in, they are immediately put to work.
There is increased risk of diseases
We know that after an event like this, there is extremely high risk of diarrhoeal diseases like cholera. WHO is positioning supplies to prepare to treat diarrhoeal diseases – lifesaving intravenous fluids, diagnostic tests, 900 000 doses of oral cholera vaccines are on their way from the global emergency stockpile. We are providing our expertise to set up 3 cholera treatment centres, including an 80-bed treatment centre in Beira.
We are also preparing for a spike in malaria in the coming weeks by procuring 900 000 insecticide-treated bednets to protect all affected families, and ensure rapid diagnostic tests and antimalarials are positioned to high-risk areas.
And we are working at top speed to ensure that the people of Mozambique can access essential health services during this crisis to ensure that:
The coming weeks are crucial for WHO in Mozambique. The health sector needs at least $38 million over the next 3 months for the health response to this humanitarian crisis.
Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) today called on the Sudanese government, which on February 22 declared a yearlong state of emergency, to immediately cease ongoing detention and abuse of doctors, students, and civilians. Since the beginning of the protests against the government in December 2018, PHR has learned about dozens of doctors and other health workers who have been arrested, held without charges, threatened and subjected to abusive treatment – including beatings and sexual abuse – for their care of injured demonstrators, as well as raids on health care facilities, inhibiting the provision of care.
PHR supports the Sudan Doctors Syndicate’s demand for an immediate cessation of the Sudanese government’s human rights violations against its people, joins the Sudan Consortium’s call for the African Commission for Human and People’s Rights to investigate allegations of excessive use of force against peaceful demonstrators, and calls for accountability in the face of the vicious crackdown on fundamental human rights in Sudan.
According to reliable reports compiled by PHR, 26 doctors currently remain imprisoned, most of them denied communication with their families and left untreated for injuries sustained during their arrests.
Physicians for Human Rights Medical Expert Dr. Rohini Haar said the following in response to the ongoing attacks against Sudanese doctors and health care facilities:
“President al-Bashir’s delegation today of Sudan’s ruling party leadership to his deputy and long-time ally, Ahmed Haroun, is likely to be merely symbolic, and must be accompanied by accountability for the government’s ongoing human rights violations. Sudanese authorities’ detention of doctors, incursions into hospitals, and interference with the provision of medical care not only represent egregious violations of the norms protecting the ethical delivery of medical care, but also cause significant health impacts for the entire community, which is no longer able to rely on hospitals as safe facilities to seek care. The Sudanese government’s use of tear gas, live ammunition, and violence – both within hospitals and on the streets – to quell peaceful protests and deter medical professionals’ ability to provide care to Sudanese citizens must cease immediately.
“The government must release detained Sudanese physicians, cease interrupting their efforts to provide health care to the Sudanese people, and be held accountable for human rights violations.”
Among the specific violations against health personnel and facilities committed at the end of February in Sudan, on the night of al-Bashir’s February 22 declaration of the state of emergency, security forces raided Central Doctors Housing in Khartoum, the largest doctors’ residence in the country, and detained all those on the premises. The estimated 56 doctors detained were released over the next few days, and many reported being beaten or subjected to psychological abuse. Reported physical injuries sustained by the detainees included a spinal fracture, limb fractures, bruises, and hematomas.
On February 24, armed security forces raided the University of Medical Science and Technology (UMST) and assaulted and detained students, including firing tear gas inside lecture halls and sexually harassing women students. After UMST students sought safe haven in Dar Alilaj hospital, security forces reportedly entered it and fired tear gas inside.
Since 1988, PHR has documented and advocated to stop the unlawful detention, torture, and killing of medical workers. PHR has advocated against the interference with medical care in violation of human rights and international laws and principles that protect the impartial delivery of health care, especially in times of civil unrest or conflict. Among other violations, the organization has reported on systematic attacks on doctors in Bahrain, the jailing of AIDS doctors in Iran, attacks and persecution of medical workers in Turkey, and the targeting and destruction of medical facilities and killing of medical personnel in Syria and Yemen.