8 Feb 2010

East Sepik in PNG short of clean water as river contaminated with cholera bacteria

11:49 am on 8 February 2010

The province of East Sepik in Papua New Guinea is experiencing an acute shortage of fresh clean water, as it battles an outbreak of cholera.

The Post Courier reports that a prolonged dry spell has dried up all fresh water sources and that the Sepik River is unsafe, as it is infected with the bacteria which causes cholera.

Tests by the World Health Organisation have confirmed that the river's water, which is used by communities for cooking, drinking and washing, is contaminated.

Oxfam New Zealand says it doesn't know if other fresh water sources are contaminated, but its urging villagers to boil all the water they collect before use.

Since the first cholera case was reported in October in East Sepik, 16 people have died and more than 600 people have received treatment for the illness.