THE Ministry of Health has launched a nationwide sanitation and hygiene awareness campaign following a series of deaths across the country caused by diarrhoea, officials said Sunday.
Ly Sovann, deputy director of the ministry’s Communicable Diseases Control Department, said that as part of the campaign, which began on Saturday, officials had been stationed on the ground in every province to treat cases of diarrhoea.
He said that diarrhoea is of particular concern during the dry season because people are driven to drink unsanitary water.
“We are concerned about diarrhoea this month, and for this campaign we have scattered expert officers to all 24 provinces in Cambodia,” he said.
An 11-year-old boy in Ratanakkiri province died after a bout of diarrhoea last Thursday, and another person died of diarrhoea and vomiting the following day, said Pon Pun, the chief of Lonk Khon commune in Borkeo district, where the deaths occurred.
A series of reports of diarrhoea and suspected cholera cases have recently sprung up in Prey Veng, Takeo and Kandal provinces. Cholera is a diarrhoeal disease caused by the Vibrio cholerae bacterium.
Oun Sundet, deputy director of the Baphnom district heath centre in Prey Veng, said Sunday that five of six people who were reported stricken with diarrhoea last week had been successfully treated.
“I think that most of them are unhygienic in general and eat food without washing their hands,” he said, adding that the authorities needed to better educate people about hygiene.
Ly Sovann said authorities were also concerned about a potential cholera outbreak, but he said he could not confirm whether any cases had been detected, and he also could not provide specific information on the number of diarrhoea cases reported nationwide.
World Health Organisation country representative Pieter van Maaren said he also did not have data on the total number of diarrhoea cases, but he said that outbreaks during the dry season were common.
“I think it is pretty much a seasonal diarrhoea. It happens frequently in the drier seasons of the year when water is sparse and people resort to using unsafe water for drinking and cooking,” he said.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY DAVID BOYLE