Medical care and sanitation services are urgently needed in districts of Nsanje and the lower shire where at least 20, 000 people have been cut off from the rest of the country for the past ten days, the medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said on Wednesday.
A third of the children under the age of five who consulted MSF’s doctors in Makhanga village were suffering from diarrhea, a potentially severe condition indicative of a lack of clean water.
MSF is the first relief organization to set up a continuous presence in the village where about 5, 000 people have found refuge from the floods.
Makhanga is currently only accessible by helicopter. In east bank, only Fatima area is accessible through a difficult five hour car journey from Thyolo.
“We were told that two of Makhanga’s wells were still functional, but the high number of children suffering from diarrhea makes us question the quality of the water people have had access to for the past ten days”, says Dr Liesbet Ohler, MSF’s medical coordinator.
“Those figures show a high and urgent need for help. And beyond Makhanga, what about all the other areas no one has had access to yet, except for the few bags dropped from helicopter for some of them?”
On Tuesday three MSF teams started providing support to local health authorities in Nsanje and East Bank districts. The organization set up mobile clinics in Trinity and Makhanga, providing water treatment kits, mosquito nets, latrines and surveillance for the prevention of malaria and waterborne diseases.
“We have identified six ‘islands’ where people have gathered to escape the floods. Although we have now established a continuous presence in two of them, people in the other four are still completely cut off from the rest of the country”, says Amaury Grégoire, MSF’s head of mission in Malawi. MSF’s priority today is finding ways to provide medical care in those areas as well.
So far data from Makhanga shows no indication of a surge in malaria cases. But once the flood waters recede, the area where mosquitoes breed will expand, and consequently the risk of malaria.
“Mosquitos are all over, yet I don’t have a mosquito net nor a blanket. I am spending sleepless nights due to mosquito bites. I am afraid I might get malaria”, said displaced person Clement George to MSF staff in M’bawa camp in East Bank on Sunday.
In Nchalo, which has received more aid than further South, MSF’s team is performing an average of 130 free consultations per day.
“In Nchalo, contrary to many parts of Nsanje and East Bank, paid for medical services remain accessible. The high number of people seeking MSF’s services indicates that, as many people have lost everything, now even more than usual people need access to free medical care”, says Dr Liesbet Ohler.
MSF started its emergency relief operation on January 8th, starting in the more accessible Chikwawa and Nchalo districts but refocusing on the Nsanje and East Bank districts where the needs are greatest
– 130 consultations were performed in the first day of presence in Makhanga, a village cut from the rest of the country where 5.000 people have found refuge from the floods.
– In the more accessible Nchalo, MSF’s teams provide an average of 130 free medical consultations per day, mostly to women and children.
– 1.300 water treatment kits distributed, each providing 240 liters of drinkable water, the equivalent of a three week supply for an average household of six people
– Mosquito nets set up in displaced people camps to give protection to 8.000 people
– 28 latrines built for a total of 1.400 people
– Four large tents for 100 people in displaced people camps
– 40 new staff have been deployed in the area: five expatriates with experience of emergency relief, plus 35 local Malawi staff. As MSF runs a regular HIV project in Nsanje this brings up to a total of 70 the number of MSF staff present in Nsanje.
– New material and staff are still arriving from MSF’s operations in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Mozambique
– MSF planning a two months long operation in the area.
MSF is an independent international humanitarian medical organisation that provides emergency medical aid to populations affected by armed conflict, epidemics, exclusion from health care and natural disasters, operating in 70 countries regardless of race, religion or political affiliation. MSF has had a presence in Malawi since 1986.
Currently, MSF has three projects in Chiradzulu, Thyolo and Nsanje focusing on HIV and TB. For emergency response activities, MSF has conducted activities throughout the northern, central and southern regions in 2011, 2012 and 2013.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :