‘Cyclone-damaged Beira hospital must be rebuilt’

HELPING HAND: Beira Central Hospital and Beira Medical School bore the brunt of Cyclone Idai, which hit areas of Southern Africa earlier this year

by LAUREN CODLING

MEDICAL staff have described how Mozambique’s main hospital – a lifeline for many – was
wrecked and their efforts to fund repairs after a devastating cyclone five months ago hit parts of southern Africa.

In March, Cyclone Idai struck areas in Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe. It is estimated that more than 1,000 people died, and thousands more went missing after the disaster left schools, businesses, churches and roads damaged.

Beira Central Hospital and Beira Medical School bore the brunt of the cyclone, with the entire surgical floor, operation theatre, administration building, psychiatric ward and blood bank affected.

The roof of the hospital was badly damaged by the cyclone

Dr Amir Seni, the head of the paediatric department at Beira, told Eastern Eye that the impact of that damage is still being felt, months on from the disaster.

The doctor, who escaped the effects of the cyclone hitting the hospital as his shift had finished hours earlier, said the water damage hit the neo-natal centre hard.

“In the intensive care unit (for children), everything was water damaged – the infant warmers, incubators and syringe pumps,” he said, adding that most equipment was still damaged. “It has been overwhelming.”

Stressing the importance of rebuilding the hospital, Dr Seni said that the whole community would suffer without it.

“This is the main hospital for the entire region, so there is no other place that patients are referred to,” he said. “We are basically the first lifeline in managing severe cases.”

In the aftermath of the cyclone, the hospital saw an influx of people who needed medical assistance.

A girl collects artificial flowers from the rubble of a building destroyed by Cyclone Idai in Beira, Mozambique

Approximately 400 rescued patients were seen a day, compared to the daily average of 100.

There were thousands of problems related to trauma and exposure, as many people had been hit by falling infrastructure and trees.

However, the hospital did not have heating or lighting as the main generator had to be shut down due to the amount of water logging. It proved to be an incredibly difficult task to support patients when resources were scarce, he said.

To make things worse, there was an outbreak of cholera as people lacked access to clean water.

Dr Seni estimated that it affected thousands of people.

“People had no water for about a week, so they were just using whatever water supply was available,” he explained. “I can definitely say that they overwhelmed the entire emergency department.”

Areas of the hospital and medical school suffered severe water damage

Since the tragedy, Ipswich hospital has been trying to raise funds to help support the Beira hospital and medical school.

The two hospitals were linked in 2003, when Ipswich Hospital consultants were invited to become involved in the foundation of clinical medical teaching at the new (and only the second) medical school at Beira in Mozambique.

The medical school sees a number of overseas doctor visiting, to teach students. The facility, which teaches a variety of modules including acute trauma and life support teaching for adults and children, neurological disease, and management of long-term medical conditions,
saw the number of Mozambique-trained doctors double.

Dr Hadi Manji, a consultant neurologist and senior lecturer at London’s National Hospital for
Neurology, has visited Beira on a number of occasions to teach medical students.

Dr Hadi Manji with medical students

Due to his links with the establishment – Dr Manji helped set up neurological services in Beira, and is also an appointed consultant and senior lecturer at Ipswich hospital – he is keen to support rebuilding of the hospital.

“Because of this cyclone, everything has come to a halt,” he told . “The focus is on re-establishing the hospital. The whole city is devastated.”

See https://www.justgiving.com/campaign/Ipswich-Beira-hospital-cyclone-appeal to donate.