March’s arrival has brought a much-needed return to many of the essential services in northern Mozambique that the public health system and communities alike depend on. In early January we reported on the devastating loss of both electricity and transport due to severe flooding throughout the region, including many of the communities we work with in neighboring Malawi. Zambezia experienced some of the worst flooding in 44 years. Widespread destruction of transportation infrastructure left 70% of the province completely unreachable by land, cutting off the north half of the country from the south.
Destruction of transportation infrastructure left 70% of the province completely unreachable and many rural health facilities had no energy supply for more than a month.
Because of the flooding, many rural health facilities had no energy supply for more than a month, putting an incredible burden on the health clinics to administer care, and on the Ministry of Health to redistribute vaccines and other medicines to alternate storage facilities with refrigeration.
VillageReach teams contributed to the relief efforts, lending fuel and vehicles. Our vehicles delivered beds, oral rehydration salts, pharmaceutical products and clean drinking water to cholera treatment centers. We also transported vaccines on a daily basis to health facilities without power, ensuring that vaccinations continued with minimum interruption and vaccine wastage was reduced during the power outage.
Currently, 51,000 have fled their homes and 160,000 have lost their livelihoods or crops. In the wake of a natural disaster like this, the barriers to healthcare within an already weak health system are amplified with devastating consequences. As we saw with the Ebola outbreak, lack of infrastructure prevents aide from reaching those most in need. Without access to basic essentials, let alone basic healthcare, large populations are exposed to considerably increased health risks in a very quick timeframe. The recovery is slow and the impact is felt for years to come.
I have just returned from a visit to the VidaGas teams in Nampula and Pemba in the north and was pleased to see electricity back on and the first delivery of propane gas from Maputo to our facilities, which is now ready for distribution to provincial health authorities and other customers. March will be a busy month for VidaGas.
While it was a great relief to see our teams back at work, knowing that fuel is now reaching rural health clinics again, I was struck by the long-term impact of the flood in the context of VillageReach and our mission. The main highway is operational, and power is back on. Yet these responses will require much greater effort in the future.