Even before the cyclone, Malawi was battling the worst cholera outbreak in its history, which has already killed more than 1,700 people and infected more than 30,600 people, out of a population of nearly 20 million.

"With the floods, toilets have been washed away and most people don't have access to clean water," Storn Kabuluzi, director of Malawi's health ministry, told AFP, citing "immediate danger".

Cyclone Freddy, which dissipated this week, caused severe flooding and deadly landslides in the country, where nearly half a million people lost their homes.

"Children are the most vulnerable" to disease, warned Mohamed Malick Fall, UNICEF Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa.

According to the organization, the threat also hangs over neighbouring Mozambique, where interruptions in water supply and sanitation services "are causing a rapid acceleration in the number of cases".

Freddy, on track to be ranked the longest cyclone on record, first struck Madagascar and Mozambique in late February. It then returned to the Indian Ocean, where it gained power thanks to warm waters, before turning back and returning to the mainland.

Cholera, an acute diarrheal infection caused by the intake of food or water contaminated with bacteria, is on the rise especially in Africa, according to the WHO.

© 2023 AFP