Health: Press Reports and
Documents About Cholera, 1973-1998

Dossier MZ-0071


Carlos Serra book cover

The work of the late Mozambican scholar Carlos Serra (1947-2020) is essential reading for an understanding of present-day cholera epidemics in northern Mozambique. This book, Cólera e catarse: infra-estruturas sociais de um mito nas zonas costeiras de Nampula, (cover only shown above) was published in Maputo by the Imprensa Universitária in 2003.

Cholera (Portuguese: cólera) is an infectious disease spread primarily but not exclusively by drinking water or eating food contaminated with the pathogen Vibrio cholerae. It is faeco-oral in character, and "fecalismo ao ceu aberto" remains a serious problem up to the present. Cholera spreads easily in war conditions, or in situations where hygiene and sanitation are poor for reasons that may include overcrowded living conditions. Cholera epidemics were reported in Mozambique in the nineteenth century: an outbreak in 1859 affected the Ilha de Moçambique and the Ilha de Ibo as well as the nearby coastal regions, with 2,541 deaths. A second occurrence took place in 1870 in Cabo Delgado, on the Ilha, and in Angoche and Sena, and only faded away in March 1871.

For a recent article that brings together a wide range of archival and other sources on nineteenth-century cholera epidemics in Mozambique, see Edward A. Alpers, “Cholera in Nineteenth-Century Mozambique: the Third Pandemic, 1859,” Tanzania Zamani, Dar es Salaam, vol.12, no.2 (2020), pages 1-33. An abstract of the article can be found here, but the full text did not seem to be available online at the time of posting of this updated MHN page. See also Miguel Aragon et al., “Carta ao editor: as primeiras epidemias de cólera em Moçambique,” Revista de Saúde Pública vol.28 no.5 (1994), p.251; and Aragon et al., “Epidemiologia da cólera em Moçambique no período de 1973-1992,” Revista de Saúde Pública vol.28 no.5 (1994), p.332-336.

In the 20th century, reports of cholera outbreaks and fatalities were common in the period of the conflict with RENAMO, and continued into the late 1990s. Subsequently, in the early years of the 21st century health workers carrying out vaccination campaigns in the northern provinces of Nampula and Cabo Delgado were attacked and some killed by enraged crowds who believed that they were in fact responsible for the spread of the disease. See Carlos Serra, Cólera e catarse mentioned above.

MHN Resources

Consolidated Downloadable Zipped Files

Click on the yellow folder image below to download a zipped archive of documents and press clippings in PDF format on cholera outbreaks. This dossier contains 44 documents and is dated 27 February 2021. It may be updated with additional materials from time to time.

Zipped file image