Major health fears in Samoa after cyclone Evan | Pacific Beat

Major health fears in Samoa after cyclone Evan

Major health fears in Samoa after cyclone Evan

Updated 20 December 2012, 9:37 AEDT

Samoa is facing a major health crisis in the wake of Cyclone Evan.

Already people have respiratory infections, young children have skin infections and the diahorrea is becoming more wide spread, with the greatest fear an outbreak of Typhoid fever.

Palantina Toelupe the chief executive of the Ministry of Health in Samoa says precautions are being taken to try to limit the outbreak of water borne and food borne disease.

Presenter: Brian Abbott

Speaker: Palantina Toelupe, chief executive, Ministry of Health, Samoa

TOELUPE: Very serious, very very serious, because we are looking here at water access, access to water is very poor and so there's worries about water-born diseases, there's also worries about food-related health problems and then, of course, we have a number of situations with the changing weather, is also bringing about a change in situations where when it's raining, it's wet and when the sun is up and dry, then there's dust as though we are expecting a whole series of infections related to dust and we are also concerned that there maybe severe skin infections for the lack of water, so there's a whole lot of serious concerns that we have.

ABBOTT: What can you do to try and lessen the chance of those outbreaks?

TOELUPE: What can we do? We are trying a whole lot of things. We are working with relevant organisations and institutions of government to try and facilitate the access to water tanks in order to at least have some also from areas that have been flashed with water and we are also organising working bees that will go, help fix pit latrines and also families have taken up the initiative themselves and gone ahead to do that kind of thing. We're sending out radio messages, we are sending out teams to at least help advise on the most basic of hygiene and sanitation and we're taking one step at a time. A lot of people are having to deal with the first thing that they needed, that's shelter over their head and then start looking at other more complicated issues.

ABBOTT: Is it the children or the elderly most at risk of these water-born diseases?

TOELUPE: Definitely, like in any other situation like we have, they are the vulnerable ones, but I've also stated very clearly in other media releases that we should not take for granted the health of the working population and the youth. They are the ones that had tried to save families during the floodings, they are the ones that have been working in the rain and working with wet clothes and have been out there full time. They're also getting tired, so whilst we concentrate on the vulnerable populations, and, of course, making sure that the children and the elderlies are being looked after. We're also looking at the young people who have been doing the work since it started.

ABBOTT: Now, I see a report that the World Health Organisation has rushed 5,000 doses of tetanus vaccine to Samoa. Are they needed desperately?

TOELUPE: We requested it, but we still haven't got it. We request it, because people were injured and staying back. They only just starting to come forward with injuries that are infected, so the situation, we ran short of tetanus toxoid and we requested WHO for dose. They're apparently arranging transport.

ABBOTT: What's the greatest threat? Is it dysentery, diarrhoea, typhoid, what do you fear most of all?

TOELUPE: Well, we haven't seen a great number of them yet. We're starting to see diarrhoea. We won't be surprised when we start to see a whole lot of people with typhoid, so we are expecting the worst. But we are starting to see diarrhoea now. We are hoping that we will have the time to at least do something before typhoid gets really bad, because we've always had typhoid. And of course, we're worried about hepatitis and that.

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