MEASLES CLAIMS EIGHT MORE LIVES IN MT. HAGEN, PAPUA NEW GUINEA

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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (April 24, 2002 – Post-Courier)---Eight more children have died of measles in Mt. Hagen.

The deaths last week now bring the measles outbreak death toll to 46 since January.

Parents of current patients at the pediatric ward have seen more than enough deaths and are hoping for a different and positive outcome for their children.

Mourning has becoming a common thing as hospital staff, ill equipped with insufficient drugs, try to combat what many parents describe as a "losing battle" against the outbreak.

The drastic shortage of vital drugs and intravenous fluids along with the large number of patients arriving daily has caused the hospital to discharge many patients still infected with the measles virus.

This has caused other children of victims discharged to be affected and admitted.

Some parents, who have only left the hospital, return again with a different child or the same one.

The Sister in charge of the pediatric ward, Joan Okk, said half the patients in the ward were readmitted patients.

"We can’t do much. There is a very drastic drug shortage. There is also limited space available to admit all patients, or leave all here in the ward," Sister Okk said.

"We have to send patients home with the virus still effective, to take in the new ones; its desperation.

"We are having 17 to 20 admissions daily. All our 47 beds are occupied. This is a disaster and we are trying what we can to curb it," Sister Okk said.

A parent, Smith Kerowa, fears for the life of his eldest son, who was admitted a week ago. He has seen the deaths of children living on either side of his son’s bed.

"I am only hoping that God will take control of everything. Every kid that comes in here with measles seems to die. Everything in this ward is chaos. This is my only son. He is my heart. I am not the ordinary man I was a week ago. It’s very expensive to go to private doctors now. We can’t go to Kudjip because all people from Hagen are not allowed there. Something must be done. And I can’t say what or who should do it, " said Mr. Kerowa.

The mother of two infected sons, Maria Gibson said: "I’ve got the lives of my two younger sons here at the hospital. I have seen many deaths. This ward has become a mourning zone. Every day there is crying and mourning. I hope God will solve this soon."

Many of the parents who were readmitted either with a different child or the same patients said they knew of nothing else to do accept to pray to God.

For additional reports from The Post-Courier, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The Post-Courier (Papua New Guinea).

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