By GABRIEL FITO
THE mighty Sepik River has been declared unfit for human use by health authorities following tests on water samples, which indicated the presence of the cholera virus.
National cholera response coordinator Dr Victor Golpac announced at the weekend that tests on the water samples collected from various locations by his surveillance officers where cases of the outbreak were reported were all positive.
Dr Golpac said results obtained from laboratory tests in Port Moresby showed that the river was now heavily contaminated and people from the river and the islands were all at great risk of contracting cholera and other infectious diseases.
Dr Golpac, who accompanied National Health secretary Dr Clement Malau and head of the World Health Organisation (WHO) in PNG, Dr Eigil Sorensen, on a tour of the affected villages on Saturday, encouraged people to boil water before drinking.
The team, which also included East Sepik Governor Peter Wararu, visited Angoram, Moim and Kambaramba 1 and 2 villages to see for themselves the extent of the outbreak, people’s lifestyle and how they could provide the best medical and logistical support to combat the disease.
Dr Malau, who expressed concern about the escalating cases of cholera, blamed the people for neglecting basic hygiene practices which allowed the cholera outbreak to occur.
He told the villagers that in the colonial days, people strictly observed hygiene rules enforced by the “Tultuls, Luluais and dokta bois” but now people were neglecting to do small things like washing hands after using the toilet and before meals, or using the toilet only to dispose their rubbish and boiling water before drinking.
Dr Malau said the cholera virus was spread through excreta and everyone should manage their waste by building one toilet per family.
“To avoid it (cholera) is simple, not complicated. If all your wastes go straight to the toilet and you wash your hands after using it and before meals, and boil all your drinking water, we could contain the disease and stop it from spreading,” Dr Malau told the villagers.
Dr Sorensen also encouraged the people to take effective action so that not many lives would lives would be lost due to cholera.
He urged them to use the current outbreak as an opportunity to improve their standard of living.