PEOPLE living in the areas worst affected by cholera and watery dysentery in Madang have complained of being stigmatised and discriminated against, as the number of people admitted or suspected of having the illness rose to 319 as of yesterday.
These areas are Nomade and the Finch Compound in the Sisiak area of Madang.
The National visited the areas over the weekend and learnt that people travelling along the route towards Sisiak one, two and three areas have been avoiding all forms of contact with them.
A group of youths from the settlement said that people were covering their mouths with pieces of cloth when they passed through the section that was worst affected by the epidemic.
They said they felt ashamed when people tried to avoid them as they travelled around.
They said that on several occasions, they had to stop the trucks and forcefully remove the cloth or face masks and tell the travellers that not all of them were affected by the epidemic.
“Mipela ino baim dispela sik ikam na ol wok long abrusim mipela ns pasim pes bilong ol. Mi pela save sem nogut tru ya. (We did not import this sickness so they should not discriminate against us. We feel embarrassed when they do that),” one of the youths said.
The youth said many of their best friends had also stopped socialising with them and many had deserted them.
He said some others had declined to talk to them thinking that all of them were affected.
A mother from the area also claimed that they felt ashamed to walk around in town as people treated them as if they were from another land.
She said people even tried to avoid boarding PMVs from the area thinking that the trucks were also contaminated.
A community leader in the area is calling on the people to respect them and not to discriminate them as the sickness came about as a result of contaminated water sources.
According to reports received from the Modilon Hospital, the number of patients seeking medical treatment has declined since the outbreak.
A new cholera treatment centre is under construction and when it is completed, the patients from the outpatient department will be moved there.
Development partners like the World Health Organisation, Medecins Sans Frontiers, Red Cross, AusAID and others are helping to treat patients and contain the epidemic.
Meanwhile, an epidemiologist with the World Health Organisation, Alexander Rosewell, says Madang provincial authorities are still considering whether to declare a public health emergency as has been done in neighbouring Morobe province, ABC reported yesterday.
Mr Rosewell said most of the affected people came from the Sisiak settlement just outside of Madang city.
“About 320 cases have come through health facilities in Madang, they are suspected cases.
“In terms of laboratory confirmation, we now have 10 laboratory confirmed cases from Port Moresby’s laboratory, as well as 22 confirmations from laboratories from Madang.”
Cholera is a diarrheal infection caused by ingesting bacteria in water or food, and can kill healthy people within hours.