Cholera warning sounded five months ago

National, Normal

THERE have been numerous warnings in the past five months from the Health Department, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and other health authorities for surveillance to be stepped up in every province and the National Capital District to contain the spread of cholera.
The same stakeholders maintained that it was only a matter of time before cholera in Morobe reached other provinces – which it did, Madang and East Sepik, with all three continuing to report cases and have ongoing containment programmes.
Health Secretary Dr Clement Malau had warned in December that the spread of cholera in Port Moresby would pose a serious health risk for the vast majority who live in the many settlements where proper hygiene and sanitation practices were lacking.
Following the national public health emergency issued last September, at the peak of the outbreak in Morobe province, NCD set up its own cholera task force on Sept 10 and began a public health drive with information posters in fast food bars, clinics, hospitals, schools and other public facilities throughout the city.
Given the high mobility rate of people in PNG, all provincial health authorities were instructed by the Health Department to set up a provincial surveillance task force as a public health measure against cholera.
Last month, Health Minister Sasa Zibe, when announcing a Government allocation of K3 million to fight cholera, said that cases in Morobe, Madang and East Sepik provinces would continue to rise.
At that time, Mr Zibe reported 541 cases in Morobe with 19 deaths while East Sepik recorded 527 cased with 16 reported deaths and Madang reported close to 100 cases but no deaths.
He said that more than K1 million of the Government aid went to Morobe, Madang and East Sepik provinces while the rest was distributed to all other provinces for their surveillance efforts.
Mr Zibe said the people should play their part by practicing better hygiene and sanitation at their homes.
He acknowledged the ongoing efforts by development partners, WHO, AusAID, the European Union, overseas and local church health partners, Medecins Sans Frontiers and Oxfam.