"Cholera outbreaks occur regularly in Mozambique between October and April, but with nearly 21,000 cases and 95 deaths, this is the largest outbreak in more than a decade," WHO Representative in Mozambique Dr Severin Ritter von Xylander told reporters in Geneva via videoconference from Maputo.

"For example, the province of Manica (central-east), now largely affected, has not experienced cholera in the last 15 years," he added.

The WHO official warned that "the epidemic continues to spread geographically", pointing out that five new districts had been affected in the last week alone.

In the worst-hit port city of Quelimane, which was without water or electricity for 14 days, 132 people have been admitted to cholera treatment centres in the past 24 hours, he gave as an example, indicating that "the number of cases has exploded" and multiplied by ten.

So far, 47 districts in eight of the country's 11 provinces have been affected, according to WHO.

A first cholera vaccination campaign took place at the end of February in four provinces, targeting more than 715,000 people. The kick-off of a second campaign was launched on Thursday in Quelimane, targeting 410,000 people. Others will follow, notably in the provinces of Manica and Sofala.

In total, more than 1.35 million people are targeted by these campaigns.

Flooding caused by the cyclone "is now receding, but access to clean water and sanitation is still difficult, about a third of crops have been destroyed," Dr Ritter von Xylander added.

Cyclone Freddy hit the southern African region twice in a matter of weeks. In Mozambique, it has destroyed more than 132,000 homes and displaced 184,000 people, according to WHO. And 163 health facilities were damaged.

Cholera is not the only concern on the horizon.

"In the coming weeks, the number of malaria cases will increase drastically and the malnutrition rate – already very high – will increase," the WHO official warned.

In Mozambique, he said, "climate change is not a future problem; He is here and now."

© 2023 AFP