Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Laos: Victims of floods fight dengue fever, malnutrition



Laos: Victims of floods fight dengue fever, malnutrition

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Flood survivors look out from the back of a truck as they are transported from a hydro power plant through a village in Sanamxai, Attapeu province last year, after they were affected by a dam collapse that resulted in widespread flooding. KAO NGUYEN/AFP

Laos: Victims of floods fight dengue fever, malnutrition

SIX months after the Xe Pian-Xe Namnoi hydropower dam in southern Laos triggered floods that swept them from their homes, survivors are now suffering from dengue fever and malnutrition.

And this is despite firm agreements between local and foreign health agencies to work together in preventing disease and otherwise attending to health needs.

International humanitarian teams in the disaster zone in Sanamxay district, Attapeu province, have reported insufficient food in the camps set up for disaster refugees, as well as shoddy handling of donated relief items and poor hygiene.

Wan Sriprasert lost his brother and his home in the village of Ban Mai to the flash floods loosed by the dam’s collapse. He and other displaced people living in temporary shelters at five remaining camps are now facing quite different threats to their lives.

“We moved into this temporary housing two months ago after having lived in tents for a long time, so we’re much happier because we have more space and at least a real roof over our heads,” Wan told a reporter touring Hadyao Camp.

But the houses, while a significant improvement over the tents where many survivors continue to live, are still packed tightly together amid unsanitary conditions. Everywhere outside are pools of wastewater, piles of garbage and huge clouds of mosquitoes and flies.

Food and clean water are insufficient to meet the refugees’ needs. This combined with unhygienic conditions is further victimising the disaster survivors. It’s not that efforts aren’t underway to help them. Health is among the highest priorities of the recovery process and there are many foreign health organisations acting in tandem with the Lao Health Ministry and local authorities to improve conditions and control disease.

The UN Resident Coordinator in Laos said a typhoid-and-cholera immunisation campaign had been successfully operating since October. The Sanamxay District Health Office and foreign humanitarian groups are carefully watching for influenza-like illnesses, severe acute respiratory infection and dengue. Nevertheless, outbreaks have been inevitable.

Laos’ Health Ministry last month acknowledged that Attapeu province was worst affected in the country’s severest national dengue epidemic in decades. The local health authority said the dengue situation was critical in Sanamxay district, where the dam disaster occurred.

It called it the epicentre of the outbreak. The ministry said Laos, with a population of 6.7 million, had more than 6,000 confirmed dengue cases and 19 deaths in the past year alone, and the current situation in Sanamxay was dire.

Viangphed Sudthi-ngoen-visa, deputy chief of the Sanamxay District Health Department, said her office handled 222 dengue cases and three confirmed deaths between October and December. She said authorities were encouraging citizens, especially those in the refugee camps, to eliminate standing water where the Aedes aegypti mosquito that carries dengue lays its eggs. But the effort hasn’t slowed the infection rate because of the huge number of puddles and pools in the camp areas.

Malnutrition, especially among children, is another major health concern in the camps. The UN Resident Coordinator said 50 of the 326 infants screened in October – ranging in age from six months to 59 months – were suffering from acute malnutrition due to insufficient food and insufficient supplies for new-born babies.

The UN official cautioned that food stocks for residents of the seven flood-affected villages whose populations were not displaced were already running low. Nor will they be able to harvest any crops at least until next October. THE NATION/ASIA NEWS NETwork

MOST VIEWED

  • Hong Kong firm done buying Coke Cambodia

    Swire Coca-Cola Ltd, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Hong Kong-listed Swire Pacific Ltd, on November 25 announced that it had completed the acquisition of The Coca-Cola Co’s bottling business in Cambodia, as part of its ambitions to expand into the Southeast Asian market. Swire Coca-Cola affirmed

  • Cambodia's Bokator now officially in World Heritage List

    UNESCO has officially inscribed Cambodia’s “Kun Lbokator”, commonly known as Bokator, on the World Heritage List, according to Minister of Culture and Fine Arts Phoeurng Sackona in her brief report to Prime Minister Hun Sen on the night of November 29. Her report, which was

  • NagaWorld union leader arrested at airport after Australia trip

    Chhim Sithar, head of the Labour Rights Supported Union of Khmer Employees at NagaWorld integrated casino resort, was arrested on November 26 at Phnom Penh International Airport and placed in pre-trial detention after returning from a 12-day trip to Australia. Phnom Penh Municipal Court Investigating Judge

  • Takeo hand-woven silk items provide local high-quality alternative to imports

    After graduating from university and beginning her career as a civil servant at the the Ministry of Economy and Finance, Khieu Sina found time to establish a business that aligns with her true passion – quality hand-woven Khmer goods. Her product line, known as Banteay Srei,

  • Two senior GDP officials defect to CPP

    Two senior officials of the Grassroots Democratic Party (GDP) have asked to join the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), after apparently failing to forge a political alliance in the run-up to the 2023 general election. Yang Saing Koma, chairman of the GDP board, and Lek Sothear,

  • 11th Chaktomuk Short Film Festival draws to close

    Cambodia's 11th Chaktomuk Short Film Festival wrapped up successfully on November 28 after a four-day run, with the film “Voice of the Night” awarded top prize for 2022. Sum Sithen, the organiser of the short film festival, told The Post that the number of attendees to the