PNG cholera outbreak: 2,000 cases mean resources are desperately stretched

Emergencies, Media Releases article written on the 09 Feb 2010

The spread of cholera to 2,000 people in Papua New Guinea has highlighted the urgent need for additional support to tackle the root causes of the outbreak, international aid agency Oxfam said today.

The first outbreak of cholera in PNG was reported in August last year, and the World Health Organisation has confirmed that 2,000 people have been affected and 50 people have been killed as a result of the outbreak.

Oxfam’s Sepik Program Manager Andrew Rankin said unless there was greater support to provide people with much needed clean water and sanitation, the water-based disease would continue to spread in PNG.

“Cholera has now been present in PNG for more than six months. Oxfam is responding in the Sepik region by providing clean water, hygiene information and emergency supplies where we can, but our resources are stretched.”

“We need to tackle the root causes that mean cholera continues to spread. Oxfam is now looking to focus on long term solutions to water and sanitation problems in the Sepik, to help reduce health risks for vulnerable communities into the future”.

“Communities affected by this issue are remote and difficult to reach. People live on marshlands, over water that is exposed to frequent contamination. Tackling the root causes of the outbreak in conditions like these is difficult, time consuming and costly,” Mr Rankin said.

Oxfam has received some emergency funding support from the Australian and New Zealand governments for its work in PNG, which has been welcome.  But efforts to provide sustainable improvements to communities will not be possible without long- term funding to properly address this issue at a community level.  

“We urgently need more support from governments, both local and international, to properly tackle this disease. Otherwise there is a real danger that cholera will continue to spread and become a recurring problem in Papua New Guinea,” Mr Rankin said.