This post was originally written for The Global Panorama, and has been uploaded here as part of a growing portfolio of work.
HONIARA — More than 18 people have been killed in the Solomon Islands, as a diarrhoea outbreak threatens the entire population of the small Pacific Island. Authorities warn that if immediate action is not taken, more lives will be lost. The outbreak has been blamed on the recent flooding of the Islands in April this year.
60,000 people – more than 10% of the entire population – were made homeless by the floods where at least 23 people where killed. The highly-contagious, deadly ‘rotavirus’ is the most severe form of diarrhoea, especially in young children and infants. All of the people killed from the virus were under five. It is very easily transferred, through touch, food and drink.
Lack of clean water supply
Approximately 20,000 children were vaccinated against the disease in the wake of the flooding this year, however, the main water supplies have all been contaminated.
Around 35% of the people who live in the capital, Honiara, are facing ‘serious health problems’ as a result of the dirty water and lack of clean supplies. 92% of residents there have no safe water supply.
Village elder of Malaita, located north-east of the capital city, Satu Pita, says it is scary to see what it causes. “It is somewhat frightening, especially given the fact that we survive off the sea, we live in the sea, eat from the sea, when a virus or bacterial disease like this spreads, everyone will fall victim.”
Doctors and hospitals close to collapse under pressure
Many doctors are complaining about the lack of resources available to them to treat the patients, who come to their practices in record numbers.
“It is always difficult to control relieving. Patient can discharge fluid at anytime and children especially are hard to control.Some discharging of fluids were made on the hospital floor and taking into account the fact that some people normally sleeps on the floor, it is a situation we are struggling to control,” one doctor told local media.
Soap and Information: How international aid organisations are stopping the spread
UNICEF is one of the organisations deployed to the cluster of islands to help the residents affected, and to prevent any further spread of the virus.
It says the two most powerful, yet basic tools they use, are soap and information. Areas hit worst by the outbreak of the virus are provided with soap as soon as possible, while information sheets are handed out to local residents in the virus-stricken villages.
UNICEF says it’s important that patients stay healthy and safe by washing their hands, but this seemingly simple precaution is becoming increasingly difficult with almost the entire population having no access to clean water.
It’s predicted the outbreak could last another month, and more requests are being made for aid from international partners.
This post was originally published on June 16, 2014.