13 Nov 2002

50 children die from measles in Papua New Guinea Highlands

5:07 pm on 13 November 2002

50 children are reported to have died from measles over the last two months in the South Highlands province of Papua New Guinea.

The Western Regional Health advisor, Herbet Timbalu, says all the children were aged five or younger and died when the Tari and Hela region were under siege from tribal fighting and violence related to the general elections.

He says the deaths occurred because mothers were unable to take their children to health centres to immunise them because they were afraid of being attacked.

Mr Timbalu says even if the mothers did get to the health centres, they found them closed or there weren't the necessary drugs available to treat sick children.

The advisor says the death toll could be higher.

Mr Timbalu says the closure of the road linking Tari to Mendi and the rest of the Highlands made it almost impossible to get drugs into the area or to transport those needing medical attention out.

The Tari hospital's child health clinic is now reporting a steady flow of mothers bringing their children in for immunisation.

The National newspaper says that lawlessness in the region is just beginning to be brought under control following the deployment of police in the area.