Solomon Islands health care under pressure
Health facilities in Solomon Islands are under pressure following a diarrhoea outbreak that has claimed the lives of 16 children over the past two weeks.
Health facilities in Solomon Islands are under pressure with the diarrhoea outbreak which has claimed the lives of 16 children over the past two weeks.
The health ministry says more than a thousand people in six provinces have been affected and it has put out health alerts to contain the outbreak.
Jenny Meyer reports.
An official at the ministry, Chris Becha, says the situation is unusual and there is a strong possiblity flood victims returning home could have spread the disaese. Up to 60,000 people were displaced in the floods in April. Dr Becha says the government is concerned as most of the deaths are in children under five years of age.
CHRIS BECHA: Sixteen deaths is unusual, you know. It's treatable and if we can intervene quickly I think we can prevent the deaths. So this is an unusual situation I have to say.
Dr Becha says rotavirus has been confirmed as the cause of the outbreak but there are no plans at this stage to bring in the oral vaccine for the illness. The key focus is on hygiene. The World Health Organisation says young children are particularly vulnerable to severe effects of dehydration and it is urging parents to seek medical advise quickly to limit the spread of diarrhoea. An epidemiologist Jennie Musto says the outbreaks could continue for up to another month. She says early action by parents is key.
JENNIE MUSTO: If your child develops diarrhoea take them to a health centre and they will get appropriate treatment, which is oral rehydration salts and zinc tablets which will prevent severe dehydration. If you're worried about your child, if they seem as if they're dehydrated or they'e not drinking adequately, take them to a health centre.
But our correspondent Dorothy Wickham says it appears the health services are struggling to cope.
DOROTHY WICKHAM: Lots of families at the hospital sitting there and our hospital system is not coping very well with it. And there's a lot of children in the hospital in the outpatient wards waiting to be treated and a lot of families being affected. But its not only affecting children. I know of some adults who have also succumb to the virus.
The Head of Unicef New Zealand, Dennis McKinlay, says the agency has been working alongside the Solomon Islands government and others to distribute life-saving supplies such as oral rehydration solution and information leaflets to avoid further deaths. He says these illnesses are preventable.
DENNIS MCKINLAY: The prevention mechanisms are not hugely expensive so it's around hygiene training, and this is the hand that Unicef has developed and making sure that the health clinics have ORS sachets and zinc tablets and then making sure that communities bring their children to the health clinics for help.
Dennis McKinlay says there's some evidence that relief work done following the recent flooding disaster has prevented deaths from occurring in those areas.
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