Oxfam responds to cholera outbreak in Port Moresby

Media Releases article written on the 14 May 2010

The outbreak of cholera in Port Moresby has the potential to spread throughout the country if not addressed quickly, Oxfam Australia said today as it sends a specialist to support local staff in their response to the health emergency.

Six people have died and there have been more than 250 cases of cholera in Port Moresby since May 3, according to the country’s National Department of Health.

Oxfam Australia Humanitarian Coordinator Jennifer Worthington said that cholera has been present in the country since September last year, however the recent emergence of the disease in the capital was a major concern.

“As the capital, Port Moresby has a relatively large population and as a major port it sees a high movement of people from across Papua New Guinea every day,” Ms Worthington said.

“This means that there is now the potential for the disease to spread rapidly within Port Moresby’s settlement areas and to outside provinces in different parts of the country.”

Oxfam has staff on the ground and is partnering with World Vision and Family Health International to contain the disease in Port Moresby’s settlement areas by providing hygiene kits and conducting a health promotion campaign.

It is also deploying a public health professional and water and sanitation expert to support the response.

“Cholera spreads quickly often through water sources and poor hygiene practices, and many of Port Moresby’s urban settlements have very poor water and sanitation facilities,” Ms Worthington said.

 “We’ll be distributing hygiene kits consisting of jerry cans, buckets with lids, soap, drinking mugs and oral rehydration salts to ensure that people have access to clean water and are practicing good hygiene to contain the spread of the disease.”

Nationwide, more than 3000 cholera cases have been reported in five different provinces since September.

Oxfam has conducted three cholera responses since October reaching over 19,000 people.

The Papua New Guinean Government declared a national emergency last Friday and Oxfam Australia and other local and international NGOs are working with them as part of a national taskforce.

People can donate to Oxfam’s International Crisis Fund at www.oxfam.org.au or by calling 1800 034 034.

For media enquiries, call Oxfam Australia Media Coordinator Sunita Bose on 0407 555 960.