Leprosy outbreak in Solomon Islands
Save the Children in Solomon Islands says the struggle to contain the rotavirus outbreak has been compounded by recent confirmation of 24 cases of leprosy diagnosed in people living in temporary accommodation following April's floods.
Save the Children in Solomon Islands says the struggle to contain the rotavirus outbreak has been compounded by the confirmation of 24 cases of leprosy diagnosed in people living in temporary accommodation following April's floods.
The head of logistics and administration, Graeme Kenna, told Jenny Meyer no one has died from leprosy but the death toll from rotavirus is now 18 children.
GRAEME KENNA: As it stands at the moment the death toll appears to be 18. There's unconfirmed reports - two more children died in Western Province in the last week. The government is handling this outbreak quite well. It was anticipated and a lot of steps were taken by Save the Children and the other aid agencies to try and stem the outbreak of any kind of disease.
JENNY MEYER: So do you think the communities themselves are managing to respond to this situation, taking their children to clinics and things like that a bit more quickly?
GK: Yes, it's still very difficult to get that message across that rotavirus need not necessarily be a fatal disease but a lot of people don't have the money after the flooding, they don't have the money to take their children to a clinic or they don't have the means to get to a clinic because of travel. So that's a bit of a sad situation but a lot more people are fronting up at clinics with sick children.
JM: And what do you think is the most pressing need now for people as they try and tackle this illness particularly that effects young children?
GK: Well Save the Children's been racing against the clock to try and get wells cleaned out. The wells in the villages on the Eastern Plains of Guadalcanal, all of the wells were contaminated during the flooding. Not a lot of work has been done on the water supply here in the Solomons for many, many years. So the system is in a very, very bad state of disrepair.
JM: And have medical teams been sent to the areas most affected by this virus?
GK: No, no Save the Children have a medical team on standby in Australia, should it get any worse, but at the moment the teams that were already in Solomon Islands and the government seem to be handling it quite well. But there's also been an outbreak of leprosy here which is compounding the issue.
JM: How many people have been affected by that do you know?
GK: 24 confirmed cases, but they're now searching to see how many other people could be affected.
JM: What areas are those people living in?
GK: Regrettably some of them are in the displaced people's centres in Honiara itself.
JM: When was that detected, the leprosy, that's quite an old disease and not very commonly seen?
GK: Yeah, it is an ancient thing. Leprosy does happen in Pacific Island countries, but to have a sudden reporting of 24 cases, most of them in young children is quite alarming. The government is telling us and the World Health Organisation are telling us that they have the situation under control, and its not a contagious disease apparently, so they seem to think that they have it under control at this stage.
JM: And is that being put down to the after effects of the flooding?
GK: Yes it is, yeah. All of these, a lot of these diseases that are happening, there are other disease outbreaks as well but they're just not as drastic as what happened with the rotavirus, no one's been killed with it, but it's really stretching the health services within the country.
Graeme Kenna says he hopes people will continue to support aid agencies working in Solomon Islands as the country struggles to cope with the outbreaks.
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