Diarrhoea Hits Walvis

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By Petronella Sibeene WINDHOEK There is an outbreak of diarrhoea at Walvis Bay, with eight fatal cases so far reported. Cases of the disease continue to rise and 28 new ones were reported at the town’s State hospital during the weekend alone. The disease that has severely affected children under the age of five this month alone claimed eight infant lives. Deputy Matron at Walvis Bay State Hospital Foibe Angula yesterday confirmed to New Era that in January this year, 407 cases were recorded and in February, the number rose to 487. She could not provide figures for this month except for the 28 cases reported during this past weekend. There were no cases of life loss recorded during the first two months of the year. Commenting on the diarrhoea situation at the town, Matron at Welwitchia hospital Aleta Walter said although diarrhoea cases are common during seasons of extreme temperatures, this year’s situation was shocking. She also said diarrhoea affects children more severely than adults. Last year this time (March), the private hospital recorded 33 cases compared to the 24 so far recorded in just half a month. Both matrons indicated that the problem could be attributed to lack of clean water at the town. Residents of Walvis Bay have been living without water for most part of the day due to Nam-water’s water facility restoring programmes at the town. Angula stated that residents at the town have water for three hours in the morning from 6am till 9am and in the evening from 6pm till 9pm. This has led to a situation where toilets are used but not flushed, and dirty dishes kept in kitchens. During the period when taps are running, the water that comes out is also said to be brownish in colour. “The first water that comes out, you can see the dirt settling in a bucket or container,” the deputy matron said. High temperatures at the coastal town also contribute to rapid deterioration of food, as well as an increase in numbers of flies that spread germs. Flies that settle on human waste and then on food transmit the germs that cause stomach flu. “Most people are now living in unhygienic conditions because there is little water. The situation is only likely to stabilise if the water situation normalises,” she added. The State hospital has been involved in the distribution of Oral Rehydration Solution (ORS) packs to all mothers with little children. In the meantime, the Ministry of Health and Social Services yesterday sent a team that would investigate or assess the situation, after which a report is expected to be presented to the office of the Permanent Secretary Kalumbi Shangula. “We do not know the underlying cause of this, only the report would tell,” Shangula told this newspaper. Shangula could not state what other measures have been taken by the ministry to contain the problem; neither could he indicate if this problem is likely to spread to other towns in the country. Manager of Public Relations at the Walvis Bay Municipality Kevin Adams said the water situation at the town would only normalise once Namwater completes its restoration project. Results from the South African Bureau of Standards confirmed last week that water at the town is safe for human use. “Our people can rest assured that the water is safe,” stated Adams. He however confirmed that the health department within the municipality has been spraying all possible areas where flies and mosquitoes are likely to breed. Johannes Shigwedha, Public Relations Officer at Namwater indicated that the water rationing at the town is due to upgrades of some infrastructure that was damaged by floods in the Kuiseb river. He however assured that all would return to normal by March 17, 2006. Shigwedha denied allegations that water could be contaminated. Today, samples of water from Walvis Bay would be sent to Windhoek for microbiological content. The hospital is encouraging people to practice basic hygiene such as boiling drinking water, washing hands before handling food and always using latrines for human waste disposal. Diarrhoea is characterised by fever, extreme thirst, loss of appetite, frequent vomiting, watery stool and body weakness.

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