Deadly floods could continue to wreak havoc on Cambodia even after the waters recede, due to the potential spread of water-borne and communicable diseases.
“We worry that after the flood there will be an outbreak of severe diarrhoea,” Ministry of Health official Ly Sovann said yesterday, adding that dysentery was another potential threat. “We need people to pay attention to their hygiene and sanitation, especially clean drinking water.”
Unicef yesterday warned that drinking wells contaminated by flood water posed health risks and the World Health Organisation said that floods increased the risk of water-borne conditions, such as wound infections, dermatitis, conjunctivitis and ear, nose and throat infections.
The Ministry of Health has already distributed chlorine tablets used to clean drinking water at district level for those affected by the floods, which have killed at least 169 people in Cambodia.
Small clusters of outbreaks of diarrhoea have been reported, but there is no evidence of any diseases at epidemic yet, Ly Sovann said. He urged flood victims to report any concerns to the Health Ministry hotline to enable a rapid response to illness.
WHO public health specialist Dr Nima Asgrai said the potential risk of diarrhoea increased where there was a breakdown of infrastructure affecting toilet and drinking water facilities.
“The use of chlorine tablets should cut down quite a lot of the dangers,” Asgrai said. “Individuals need to take responsibility for themselves.”
Unicef communications Officer Carly Witheridge said Unicef water and sanitation specialists were looking into potential health risks associated with the flooding.
“The main health and sanitation implications are that drinking water wells have been contaminaed by flood waters, but we are still conducting further investigations,” she said.
“People, particularly children, must drink clean water, not floodwaters that contain diseases,” National Committee for Disaster Management cabinet chief Keo Vy said.
Doctors had been provided at locations where flood evacuees were staying, he said, but remaining waters could pose a heightened risk of mosquito-born dengue fever.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY PHAK SEANGLY