INTERNATIONAL aid agency Oxfam has sent staff and emergency supplies to East Sepik province to help respond to a cholera outbreak that has so far reportedly killed six people and affected another 250.
This latest outbreak of cholera follows earlier reported outbreaks in other areas of Papua New Guinea, including neighbouring Madang province.
Oxfam’s Sepik programme manager Andrew Rankin said new cases of cholera were being reported daily and it was important to respond quickly to the outbreak.
“Cholera spreads quickly, often through water sources.
“Many communities here rely on water from the Sepik River for all aspects of their daily life, and have limited sanitation facilities.
“Cholera can be fatal if not treated quickly, which is why we are working with the PNG Government and other agencies to respond to this latest outbreak,” Mr Rankin said.
“One of the key tasks in preventing the spread of cholera is to ensure that people have access to clean water and are practising good hygiene”.
“If people don’t care about their lives, they will definitely end up having cholera in which we are trying to help them understand the basics of practising healthy hygiene.
“Oxfam currently has water and public hygiene experts in East Sepik who are working with local communities to ensure people do have clean water and are aware of how important it is to minimise the risk of cholera spreading by doing things like washing their hands and covering their food,” he said.
He said they also planned to distribute emergency supplies for up to 1,500 households, including hygiene kits, as part of a coordinated effort to respond to this outbreak.
“Some of the areas affected are very remote, making communication and travel difficult.
“Nevertheless, we are working with others to try to ensure that this outbreak is contained as quickly as possible and try to minimise the number of those affected,” he said.
Oxfam had worked in East Sepik for more than 10 years as part of its broader programme in PNG.