Concern at the threat of disease in Solomons
In Solomon Islands there is increasing concern at the threat of disease after last week's floods.
A week after devastating flooding, the Solomon Islands government has maintained a state of emergency and aid agencies are involved in a massive relief effort.
At least 23 people have died, 10,000 more have been displaced from their homes in Honiara and it's estimated more than 50,000 people have been affected in the rest of Guadalcanal province.
Jenny Meyer reports.
A spokesman for Save the Children Graham Kenna says Honiara's infrastructure has collapsed, water supplies are limited and the sewage system is lost. He says his organisation is trying to arrange water tanks for evacuation centres for the homeless in Honiara. But he says this is just the tip of the iceberg as it's thought more than 50,000 people out in the rest of the province need urgent intervention but these areas are hardly accessible.
GRAHAM KENNA: They're trying to get through by road to the eastern side of Guadalcanal Island. It's proving extremely difficult but there are some assessment teams out there. To the western side there is absolutely no road access. So people are going by canoe and helicopter to try and get an assessment done on that side of the island. We are very very frightened of a major disease outbreak here.
The head of the World Health Organisation in Solomon Islands says damage to health clinics in villages means many people are without medical help. Dr Audrey Awmua says hospital admissions are increasing with a number of people suffering trauma and broken bones. She says the provision of water, sanitation and food are priorities. She says the hospital is functional and people are coming into the city from the villages for medical care.
AUDREY AWMUA: Where we are challenged a little bit is there's a lot of the village facilities the primary health care facilities out in the provinces that have been damaged and of course have closed down. So populations are finding it hard to access good primary care at this stage. So there's a movement towards the city. But this is being carefully watched. But the hospital generally I think is coping at this stage.
A hygiene specialist for UNICEF in Solomon Islands says the first cases of malaria, diahorrea, and respiratory illness have been confirmed in the evacuation centres. Donald Burgess says children are the most vulnerable to disease outbreaks and establishing clean water and sanitation in camps is a priority to avoid further casualties.
DONALD BURGESS: A lot of people who are in the camps are having diahorrea, the reports are coming from there, and malaria. And if it is not being tackled speedily and urgently the situation may deteriorate further.
Donald Burgess says more help is needed to avoid a disease toll worse than the disaster itself and doctors have been seconded to some of the larger camps. The Solomon Islands Ministry of Education says six of the schools in Honiara have been turned into evacuation centres. The permanent secretary, Franco Rodie says at least 30 schools outside of Honiara were badly damaged by the floods and could be closed for up to three months. He says the Ministry hopes to work with NGOs to set up temporary schools in the meantime.
FRANCO RODIE: We are going to take one step at a time, with the limited resources we have to be able to assist the schools so that they can operate again. We are trying all our best to reach out to the schools so that you know we are able to talk with the children and teachers who have been traumatised, and engage them in some kind of activities.
Franco Rodie says while assessors have been unable to reach many of those schools because of damaged roads, it is estimated they will cost millions to repair. The World Bank, which has a strong presence in Solomon Islands, is also involved in the response to the flooding disaster on Guadalcanal. The Bank's country representative, Anne Tully, says it is supporting a large scale employment project in Honiara, called the Rapid Employment Project.
ANNE TULLY: And we have managed to support the Government in allocating some funds within that project to help with clean up. So it employs a lot of young people around the city, young people typically it has been young people and women, to do street cleaning and we will be using that project to help with the some of the massive clean up that will need to take place.
She says the World Bank is also in talks with the government and donor agencies about how to calculate the total cost of reconstruction from the disaster. Honiara International Airport is open to commercial flights, enabling the movement of aid workers and supplies. The United Nations says over 15 members of its Pacific Humanitarian Team will deploy to Honiara in coming days to work with Government ministries, donor countries and humanitarian partners. Meanwhile Queen Elizabeth II has sent condolences to the government and people of Solomon Islands following last week's devastating floods. In a message to the Governor General, Sir Frank Kabui, the Queen said she was deeply saddened to learn of the floods. She says Prince Philip joins her in sending heartfelt condolences to the friends and families of those who died and good wishes to all those involved in the emergency response and the reconstruction process.
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