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Illness taking toll on ‘Islands of Love"

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Jan. 13, 2009) – The Islands of Love, the Trobriand Islands, are in big trouble.

The only rural health centre serving 32,000 people was ordered closed by health inspectors on New Year’s Day.

The health centre was ordered to close because of gross contamination of water, lack of toilet facilities for patients and health workers, lack of all types of drugs including intravenous drips, oxygen, painkillers and anti-biotics.

As this paper reports on the situation, people including the elderly and children are getting sick each day because there is hardly any government intervention to remedy this problem.

In one recent incident a child aged five died on board a passenger boat from Losuia to Alotau after having been referred because of the closure of the health centre.

The child from Kaibola village was referred to Alotau General Hospital but died on the vessel. The body is now at Alotau hospital morgue.

The closure of the centre by health inspectors from Alotau health office, had directly affected the 32,000 Trobriand islanders particularly the uncured sick patients discharged to go home, the children, mothers and the old people in the 80 villages of the islands.

In September and November last year and the first week of this month, Alotau health officers made three separate assessment trips to Losuia (Kiriwina Island) and randomly identified that almost every village had about 3-5 sick persons involving one or a combination of the illnesses throughout the islands.

There are 110 villages apart from the Losuia government station hence effectively about 500-600 sick people every two weeks.

A senior government officer from Losuia district reported that he had two sick children lying in his house and he did not know what to do because the health centre had been shut down by the health inspectors.

According to some Trobriand islanders who had just returned from holidays, their relatives had complained of stomach ache, nausea, vomiting, coughing, diarrhoea and fever.

Unconfirmed figures state that more than 40 people had died from typhoid, malaria and pneumonia.

The people had reported that all 12 aid posts including the two sub health centres, (Kitava and Omarakana) had no basic drugs for months, since last year.

A councillor from inland Kiriwina, Kwebwaga ward, Kuleleku Tomdia, who is in Port Moresby to appeal for medicine from relatives, confirmed that "sickness is everywhere" but there is no medicine.

The Losuia health centre is now like an aid post and the health workers can only treat very serious cases but those with malaria cases were told to go home and hope for the best.

The councillor recommended that there must be something done on the water issue by way of supplying tanks to all villages and relocating the Losuia station water supply to a new site.

Papua New Guinea Post-Courier:

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