The National – Wednesday, February 2, 2011
PNG Red Cross will need more assistance from the government and the Australian Red Cross to contain the cholera outbreak which keeps on taking lives in Western.
With about 4,000 cases and 400 deaths in the remote area, it was obvious that more awareness on basic knowledge on hygiene and excess to good quality drinking water was needed to help contain the disease.
This concern was raised by an Australian Red Cross nurse and aid worker Libby Bowell on ABC’s Radio Australia on Monday night.
Bowell said such remote places needed more assistance from its government and other stakeholders to stop a preventable disease from destroying the lives of the people there.
“Well cholera is very preventable, it is just difficult in areas that suffer with poor sanitation and don’t have access to safe water and don’t have knowledge around good hygiene.
“But cholera is preventable by all of those things, with hygiene washing hands with soap, and having good safe water access and having good sanitation.”
Unfortunately, most of the areas Red Cross PNG and Australia were working in had open sanitation and rely on well water.
But with the tides and the king tides flooding their communities, most of the wells were destroyed.
“Most of the people lived in a pretty primitive village system that is affected by tides monthly and some of the communities are wiped out because of king tides almost monthly,” she said.
“I saw deaths almost every day in the communities that I was in, and it’s been going since mid-October and it’s still continuing on and not showing any real signs of decreasing at this stage.”
The most vulnerable cases ranged from the ages of 19 through to 40 who were previously well.
Meanwhile, Red Cross PNG is in its second phase of a four-phase programme on health promotion and public health awareness.
“Australia’s a lucky country, I know that we have been through our own problems in the last month, but Australia should never see cholera because we know about good hygiene, we have access to safe water and safe sanitation,” Bowell said.
“It is a terrible thing to see people dying every day from a disease that should and can be prevented.”