DAISY TANIOVA PAWA
LAE city has been put on “red alert” again after six people were admitted to the cholera treatment centre (CTC) in just one day alone.
Last Thursday, six people were reported to have gone to the centre with symptoms of cholera.
Another person was admitted to the centre the following day, after he displayed symptoms of cholera in front of a supermarket fast food outlet in Top Town.
The shop was immediately closed by health authorities.
An urgent meeting was called last Friday to assess the situation and discuss measures to be taken.
Dr Likei Theo, chairman of the Morobe cholera outbreak task force, said due to the admittance of a large number of patients in just one day, there was enough reason to declare an alert for the city.
Dr Theo also said that the emergence of a large number of cases in one day showed that the people were “relaxing and going back to their old ways”.
Angau Memorial Hospital chief executive officer, Dr Polapoi Chalau, said that from “documentation of previous experiences of cholera outbreaks in other countries, the outbreak would come in two waves.”
He said that the “second wave” would hit the hardest, affecting more children. Dr Chalau also presented a detailed report of those who were admitted last Thursday.
Of the six admitted, four were children under the age of 10.
He said this behaviour pattern of the cholera outbreak could be due to the people’s change of behaviour, once they hear that the outbreak was slowing down, they tend to be less concerned about safe and healthy practices.
The situation has come at an unfortunate time for the task force as most of the aid agencies and organisations that were assisting the task force have left the province.
Dr Victor Golpak, who had been coordinating the task force, has also left the province to return to his job in Port Moresby.
It is understood he will continue efforts to get the K8 million approved by the National Executive Council.
He was, however, aware of the increase in cases before he left.
Papua New Guinea Defence Force’s joint task force commander, Major Ivan Timo, whose men are assisting in containing the outbreak, said he was advised by Dr Golpak to relocate some of his medical officers to the treatment centre.
Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), however, is still maintaining care and operations of the treatment centre until next week.
During the urgent meeting last Friday, two key issues were discussed.
The first was that awareness should be increased in the settlements, with better coordination between the existing partners of the task force, while the second was aimed at how the task force could apply more pressure on the Government to release the K8 million promised.
Dr Theo also said that together with awareness, the people would be warned that if they did not comply with Government regulations, they would be evicted.
He said that many of these settlement dwellers were illegal tenants (squatters) and could be evicted if they pose a threat to the legal tenants in the city.
The focus is on the settlement dwellers as the majority of cases so far reported has came from settlement areas.
This was because these areas did not have proper water and sanitation systems in place, Dr Theo said, who has reports from surveys done by environment and health officials.
The six who were admitted last Thursday all reside in settlement areas, according to the report presented by Dr Chalau.