The AKUH Nairobi team carried almost 2,000 kilogrammes of equipment and medical supplies to affected areas.
When the Tropical Cyclone Idai made landfall in mid-March in three countries in southern Africa, more than 700 people died and another 1.85 million people were affected. They were left homeless and without food and water.
Nearly 91,000 houses were identified as totally destroyed. At least 39 health centers and 2,800 classrooms were affected in the provinces of Sofala, Manica, Zambézia and Inhambane provinces according to the Mozambican authorities. The vulnerable situation called for urgent provision of relief supplies and emergency medical inter.
Among the first responders was a medical team from the Aga Khan University Hospital in Nairobi, which arrived in Mozambique’s coastal town of Beira on Saturday, March 23. Beira, the capital of Sofala Province and fourth largest city in the country. The city of 500,000 people is among the areas that bore the brunt of the cyclone.
The Emergency Medical Response Team (EMRT) comprised of four medical doctors--three emergency medicine specialists and a paediatrician, and four specialist nurses. They were accompanied by Mr. Muhammad Hemraj, responsible for logistics and overall coordination.
The medical team was led by Dr Benjamin Wachira, who is one of Kenya’s highly trained and experienced emergency physicians. The team carried with them trauma kits, weighing in total about 150kg. They also received medical equipment and supplies weighing almost 2,000 kilogrammes a few days later.
They worked in concert with Mozambique’s Ministry of Health, Aga Khan Development Network – Mozambique, the South African National Defence Force (SANDF), local community members and emergency medical response teams from other countries.
The AKUHN’s emergency medical team evaluated more than 400 patients over a five-day period in medical facilities and accommodation centres in the catchment area outside Beira.
“Almost all patients presented with symptoms that are common to the area – diarrhoea, fever, and dehydration – though there was a significant surge in the number of cases after the cyclone. The immediate threat is a possible outbreak of cholera. Therefore, prevention efforts need to be beefed up,” said Dr Wachira.
During the five-day medical relief mission, our colleagues participated in significant medical interventions. While they had initially thought they would see only 200 patients, they ended up seeing more than 400 patients. Here are a few of their interventions.
On request by Mozambique’s Ministry of Health and SANDF, Dr. Syeda Ra’ana (AKUHN’s Pediatrician), received and stabilized a patient who had been airlifted because she required an emergency caesarian section. Dr. Ra’ana accompanied the patient to the Beira Central Hospital where she delivered the baby. This was on day three of the mission.
On the same day, Anthony Ndung’u, a Pediatric Emergency Nurse, was selected to fly with SANDF’s medical team on a mission to Guara Guara, about 45km west of Beira. The area was accessible only by air. Although there was no electricity and fresh water was in low supply, Ndung’u saw about 30 patients at Guara Guara, most of them children with wounds caused by playing in areas strewn with iron sheets and debris caused by the effects of cyclone Idai.
On the day after, Dr. Kevin Muli (Emergency Physician) and Anthony Ndung’u (Pediatric Nurse) accompanied the SANDF team in Guara Guara where camps for Internally Displaced People had been set up. The main health facility had not sustained extensive damage during the cyclone but lacked essential supplies. AKUHN’s EMRT provided emergency medical treatment to 30 patients and evaluated about 100 people.
Day four of the mission also saw Dr. Syeda Ra’ana (Pediatrician), Dr. Ezekiel Osolika (Emergency Doctor), Charles Kimathi (Critical Care Nurse), and Simon Njeri (Emergency Nurse) accompany SANDF’s medical team to Buzi. The combined team evaluated about 150 in- and outpatients with the help of a nurse working at the local hospital. The majority of patients had cut-wounds and most inpatients were severely dehydrated. Dr. Ra’ana reviewed newborn babies admitted in the hospital post-delivery and provided support in the pediatric ward. Our colleagues provided direct emergency medical treatment to 40 patients.
Meanwhile, Dr. Benjamin Wachira (Emergency Physician) and Ibrahim Kigaita (Emergency Nurse) attended a planning meeting in Chimoio with a team from the Mozambique Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization (WHO). Chimoio is the fifth-largest city in Mozambique; it is about 200km west of Beira. The team was on a fact-finding mission to evaluate the extent of damage caused by Cyclone Idai. The local health team in Chimoio confirmed that the province did not suffer extensive damage and the situation was getting back to normal.
The team came back to Kenya on Friday, March 29. According to the lead physician, Dr Wachira, “The Emergency Medical Response to Mozambique further highlights our readiness and dedication to respond to mass casualty events and disasters both in Kenya and beyond. As an emergency physician and a leader in this department, I am proud of our achievements to date and strive to lead the team to save more lives every day, everywhere we are called upon.”