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Upstream mining, poor hygiene bring disease

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Oct. 28, 2008) - The Minawa River, the water source of six villages with more than 2,000 people in the Watut area of Bulolo district, Morobe Province is allegedly contaminated from either mining activities or bad hygiene.

The recent typhoid outbreak early this month has been attributed to the use of contaminated water by villagers.

Eleven people have been reported dead while more than 2,000 people from six villages along the Minawa River are badly affected.

Health officers on patrol to assess the outbreak have also reported that there was a change of trend in the dysentery outbreak and the number of child cases were increasing at an alarming rate.

The contamination of the river which had caused the waterborne disease outbreak is claimed by some to be from the effects of mining activities up the river.

They claimed that the river has been polluted by alluvial miners and a mining exploration company using the river to dump waste including chemicals, oil and dirt.

The officer-in-charge of Watut Health Centre has reported that the six villages affected included those at Minawa, Nauti two, Y.O.K, Erowa Creek and Nauti Bridge who had been using the contaminated river for drinking, cooking, washing and laundry since the typhoid dysentery outbreak.

The OIC who requested anonymity told the Post-Courier yesterday the villagers were never informed of contamination risks by miners and other villagers using the river upstream.

"Villagers up stream also use the river as their toilets because they don’t have toilets. The mining exploration company and alluvial miners use the same river to clean up their waste and the two last villages, Nauti Bridge and Erowa Creek are badly affected," a health extension officer (HEO) said.

He said reports from health officers patrolling the area had shown a staggering increase in children cases which he predicted would affect the population growth of the six villages.

He also said the only option to combat the outbreak was to install better water supply in the affected areas.

The OIC said a report will be presented to the provincial and district health authorities for appropriate action.

Bulolo MP Sam Basil also assured last week that he would send in a mobile health clinic team sometime this week with PGK5,000 [US$2,000] worth of dysentery drugs to fight the outbreak.

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