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By Alison Anis

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, March 13) – The severe cerebral malaria syndrome, which is a common killer along the coastal and swampy Sepik areas, has lived up to its reputation, claiming the lives of three school-aged children in the remote Nuku district of Sandaun province last Sunday.

Many others, including the headmaster of the Sabig Community School where the deceased attended school, are affected.

Their lives hang in balance unless medical supplies and urgent services arrive quickly.

Urban Torowi, a teacher at the community school and a first-aid medical officer, who visited the mosquito-infested area last week, reported the incident to The National yesterday, claiming that the students had died of dehydration after continuous vomiting and diarrhea.

He suspected cerebral malaria.

He said the deceased had been left sick for a month without any proper treatment due to lack of medical supplies in the area.

"Medical treatment could be received at the Ningil sub-health centre but it is three hours by foot. There are no means of public transport due to the deteriorating road conditions. For ages people in the villages in the district had been traveling by foot, carrying their sick to and fro on stretchers," Mr Torowi said.

"It is a very serious situation out here. Almost every village you go to have at least someone showing malarial symptoms. If these people go without treatment for three weeks or a month, they could die."

Mr Torowi revealed that the recent deaths add to a number of unreported cases in the area including those from neighbouring villages.

He said in Sabig, there were reports that five people died in November last year from malaria because of lack of treatment.

Mr Torowi said the deaths of the three school children had upset the whole village.

He said authorities need to look into this and do all in their power to prevent the situation from getting out of hand.

"People are dying from diseases that could be treated, given adequate supplies and ample services."

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