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Ratanakkiri villagers return after fleeing outbreak

VILLAGERS from Ratanakkiri province’s O’Chum district have returned to their homes after fleeing into the jungle after a diarrhoea outbreak killed two villagers last week, officials said.

Tha Bunthak, deputy director of the Ratanakkiri provincial Health Department, said Sunday that after the death of a 17-year-old girl and 52-year-old woman last week, most of those living in Kham village left their homes Thursday, fearing they would come down with the ailment.

“Many villagers ran into the jungle to escape getting the same disease, but I and local authorities announced for them to return to the village in order to prevent them from getting the same disease,” he said. He added that a total of 53 villagers have reported symptoms to local officials.

He said that authorities are now educating the villagers about how to protect themselves from diarrhoea.

“We explained to them not to go into the jungle, because it can make them get ill ... because they drink bad water and eat bad food, so it is easy for them to get diarrhoea,” he said.

Tha Bunthak said the prevalence of diarrhoea had increased in Ratanakkiri so far this year, and that lack of awareness of the illness was partly to blame.

A total of 14 people have died from diarrhoea this year.

“Diarrhoea cases in Ratanakkiri province are worse than last year because the weather is not so good and the villagers don’t follow our advice,” he said.

“We told them to drink boiled water and eat food which is hygienic, but they don’t do it. They still drink unboiled water.”

Sak Sun, the governor of O’Chum district, said officials had succeeded in calming villagers since last week’s outbreak. “The health officials helped them in time at their village after the two people died,” he said.

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