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Expertise in remote, challenging and under-resourced environments saves lives in PNG Cholera outbreak

PROJECT

Cholera Emergency Response Committee PNG

BACKGROUND

In late 2010, an outbreak of cholera in the Torres Strait has spread to scores of island and coastal villages in the Fly River delta area of Papua New Guinea's Western Province, killing more than 100 people and infecting hundreds of others.

Cholera is a stomach infection that causes diarrhea and vomiting, leading to rapid dehydration. Although preventable, it kills up to 130,000 people a year world-wide.  The disease had already killed 32 people and infected 888 others on Daru, the most highly populated island in the Torres Strait. Many of the victims were children.

Mr. Ian Kemish, Australia's High Commissioner in Port Moresby at that time told the media that this outbreak was much harder to handle on Daru because it was in remote areas where there was poor communication, difficult travel conditions and widely dispersed villages.

With a recognised expertise in providing healthcare solutions in remote, rural, challenging and under-resourced environments, Aspen Medical was contracted by the Australian Government’s AusAID to assist the Cholera Emergency Response Committee for the Western Province of PNG.

Our rapidly deployed team of Environmental Health specialists provided technical advice on water and sanitation measures for the immediate emergency response on Daru. Following the initial response we:

  • Provided advice to help prevent the further spread of Cholera by identifying the factors that were contributing to the outbreak
  • Ensured the municipal piped water supply on Daru was treated to a potable standard
  • Oversaw the distribution of narrow-neck water containers and soap to the affected population on Daru and other villages

Today, we continue to play an active role in monitoring Cholera outbreaks in PNG.

CHALLENGES

  • Remote, rural, challenging and under-resourced environment
  • Culturally diverse environment
  • Extremely limited local services