First quakes, now malaria

In­done­sia’s tourist is­land of Lom­bok, where hun­dreds of thou­sands are still liv­ing out­doors, de­clares a health emer­gency as the num­ber of peo­ple con­tract­ing the dis­ease dou­bles.

The Star Malaysia - - World -

JAKARTA: In­done­sia’s tourist is­land of Lom­bok is bat­tling malaria, au­thor­i­ties said, declar­ing a health emer­gency af­ter a se­ries of earth­quakes in July and Au­gust forced hun­dreds of thou­sands to flee their homes.

The quakes and af­ter­shocks that killed nearly 500 peo­ple are es­ti­mated to have caused five tril­lion ru­piah (RM1.4bil) in dam­age to hos­pi­tals and pub­lic in­fra­struc­ture on the is­land’s north­ern coast.

Af­ter the quake, aid groups said many of the hun­dreds of thou­sands left home­less were camp­ing in open fields, re­fus­ing to seek shel­ter in­doors as tremors con­tin­ued.

Women and chil­dren are among the 128 peo­ple found to have been in­fected, Rah­man Sah­nan Pu­tra, the chief of the West Lom­bok Health Agency, told Reuters by tele­phone.

“It’s an ex­tra­or­di­nary oc­cur­rence,” Pu­tra said, con­firm­ing that an emer­gency had been de­clared.

The lo­cal gov­ern­ment was seek­ing 3.4 bil­lion ru­piah (RM952,000) from the cen­tral and re­gional gov­ ern­ments to help fund mosquito nets, test kits and the emer­gency re­sponse ef­fort, he added.

Although malaria is en­demic in West Lom­bok, re­cent tests re­vealed a spurt in in­fec­tions, an­other re­gional of­fi­cial said.

“There was a mass blood sur­vey and the en­tire com­mu­nity was checked,” said Mar­jito, the chief of the health agency of West Nusateng­gara, the prov­ince that is home to Lom­bok.

The in­ci­dent was be­ing treated as a “stan­dard out­break”, Mar­jito said, adding that those test­ing pos­i­tive for the dis­ease are treated, coun­selled and their sur­round­ings sprayed with dis­in­fec­tant.

Many of those in­fected had been liv­ing in tents af­ter the quakes and did not get proper rest, mak­ing them more vul­ner­a­ble, he added.

“When peo­ple with malaria are weak, that’s when is­sues arise,” Mar­jito said, adding that au­thor­i­ties were map­ping ar­eas where malaria is en­demic and planned to dis­trib­ute thou­sands of mosquito nets as a pre­ven­tive mea­sure.

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