The Necessity of Disaster Preparedness Among African People

The destruction caused by Katrina in New Orleans

In poor settings all over the world, the human consequences of disasters are often determined by the vulnerability of the community and lack of local capacity, rather than by the physical characteristics of the event. The Mozambique disaster and the subsequent cholera outbreak show us that the community is central for preparedness programmes to work. Since Cyclone Idai’s landfall, more than 6000 cases of cholera have been reported, and this could not have been a surprise for the humanitarian community. Indeed, the disease has been endemic in that region for years, and it has been observed that it is often aggravated by cyclones. Mozambique has had repeated epidemics over the past five years, including two events in 2017–18 that each saw approximately 2000 cases, which the fragile health systems were not able to contain.

Furthermore, we should not overlook the main causes of child mortality in Mozambique, namely acute respiratory infections and pneumonia, as well as severe malnutrition, all of which are likely to worsen in the aftermath of Cyclones Idai and Kenneth. While the early detection and treatment of these conditions are critical for containment, we also know that roads blocked during such acute disasters make it virtually impossible to access a physician even if there was one within an hour’s walk.

Lome, Togo in West Africa

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