ZACHERY PER in GOROKA
MEDICAL authorities yesterday revealed that 29 people in Eastern Highlands province have died from dysentery, while one case of cholera has been confirmed.
Eastern Highlands provincial administrator Munare Uyassi said stool samples sent to Port Moresby for laboratory tests from a patient showing symptoms of cholera in Watabung, Daulo district, confirmed that he had cholera.
“The patient is being treated and is under strict quarantine and is being monitored,” Mr Uyassi said.
As of yesterday afternoon, reports from a medical team doing surveillance at Andakombi and Simbari in Obura-Wonenara district that shares a common border with Menyamya in Morobe province, confirmed 29 deaths.
Mr Uyassi said a combined fact-finding mission from the provincial division of health and CARE International deployed to monitor the situation along the border reported that the deaths were related to dysentery.
Six of them were from Simbari and 23 from Andakombi.
Six of the deceased were male adults, 13 female adults and 10 children.
The Eastern Highlands provincial government yesterday announced that it had set up an emergency cholera response task force to immediately draft an action plan to combat cholera.
Mr Uyassi said provincial health director Ben Haili would lead the task force, while members of the committee included representatives from Goroka Base Hospital, Goroka town authority, police, church health services, non-governmental organisations and development partners. Mr Uyassi said that a separate team was placed on alert in Kainantu as it was the gateway to the Highlands.
“A massive awareness exercise was carried out by the Goroka district health services, which discouraged cooked food vending and general preventive measures over the weekend, with good results,” he said.
Mr Uyassi said that the University of Goroka, CARE International, Unicef, Clinton Foundation and Save the Children Fund (SCF) had assisted in the awareness exercise.
“The town authority has been double treating the town water supply and the Goroka Base Hospital is building a makeshift cholera treatment centre away from the general ward,” he said.
Mr Uyassi added that health workers would be specially trained to look after cholera patients, and the Salvation Army church had already erected a makeshift tent behind the hospital morgue.
“Police will be on regular patrols to hunt down cooked food vendors, especially those along the Eastern Highlands section of the highway from Watarais (EHP and Morobe border) to Magiro (EHP and Simbu border).
He said settlements with unhygienic living conditions would be closed down.
“Settlements with poor water and sanitation could become a breeding ground for cholera,” Mr Uyassi said.
“Police have been instructed to be on the lookout for such settlements.”