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Cholera outbreak hits Papua New Guinea

The disease causes severe diarrhoea, and vomiting leading to dehydration. It is carried by water and usually happens in place with poor water sanitation, but can also be transmitted by food that has been in contact with sewage.  Cholera has spread through several provinces on the island and could become endemic, if the government doesn’t work harder to teach people about it and make sure they have access to clean water, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said today. “There is no sign the epidemic is contained,” said WHO representative Eigil Sorenson.
“Most of the deaths have occurred in newly affected areas before awareness of the disease has reached the community.”

The break out break could turn into a major problem for  the south Pacific island’s health care system, he said. And many parts of Papua New Guinea, are crowded on the outskirts of cities with no proper sewage systems, which harbour the ideal conditions for the disease to spread. "We feel that from a public health perspective, it is very important to address the water issue,” Mr Sorenson told Associated Press news agency. “Otherwise there is the risk that cholera spreads to other provinces and becomes endemic in Papua New Guinea. Greater efforts were needed to get piped water to the settlements, he added.

Papua’s public health department said the disease was first reported in temporary homes around the provincial capital of Lae in July, and then spread to provinces nearby, where cases are now springing up in remote villages are now seeing cases. A disease expert working for the WHO said it was not clear why it had suddenly returned to the impoverished nation. About 80% of Papua New Guinea's people live in rural areas with few or no facilities. Many tribes in the central isolated mountains have little contact with each other, let alone with the outside world, and without a money-based economy. Instead they do trade with food and farm produce. Papua New Guinea is the largest developing country in the South Pacific region and one of the most diverse in the world. About 40% of  its people are under 15 years old, according to figures from the Australian government. Most people live in rural communities based on the traditional village structure and dependent on subsistence farming. Only about 13% of the Papua New Guinea population lives in urban areas.

By Hayley Jarvis for SOS Children