The National – Monday, January 3, 2011
By DUNCAN WILLIS
THE cholera outbreak in East Sepik has spread to Ambunti district’s Iniok village and neighbouring villages from the Tunap sub-district.
At least 10 people have been confirmed dead since last Friday with unconfirmed reports of more casualties.
Ambunti-Dreikikir district administrator Solomon Hopkos confirmed this last Friday after being alerted by community affairs officers of Xstrata Copper company which is developing the Frieda River copper-gold project in the district.
Its helicopter flew health officials and necessary medical drugs from the Burui health centre to the affected communities.
“I have mobilised health officials from Maprik and Burui health centres and a medical team has already been sent to the villages by the company’s helicopter,” Hopkos said.
He said he had tried to contact the provincial health office in Wewak but was unsuccessful since everyone was out for the Christmas and New Year holidays.
“I have sent them a fax and I am still awaiting their response.”
District health officer Dominica Wain, who is currently in the affected villagers to assess the situation, said: “As of last Wednesday and Thursday, more people are being affected and the death toll is increasing.”
Xstrata Copper company has been assisting the district with logistics while waiting for the government to intervene and assist them to help fight the outbreak.
Since cholera is waterborne, contaminated waste in the river will prove fatal because there are many villages along the banks of the Sepik River and it could spread to villages downstream.
Hopkos and the district medical team are currently assessing the situation with very little funding and is appealing to the government and Health Department to take action and move in as soon as possible.
“I have a VHF radio operating 12 hours a day that we are monitoring constantly with Iniok, but we are requesting provincial and national health support,” he said.
“Health officials from Ambunti, Burui and Maprik are on the ground and are currently dealing with the situation.”