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UNICEF Responding to Diarrhoea Outbreaks in Solomon Islands

UNICEF Responding to Diarrhoea Outbreaks Affecting Children in Solomon Islands

Following an outbreak of diarrhoea in the Solomon Islands, over one thousand people have reportedly been affected so far and 16 young children have died in the past two weeks. Some of these recent cases have been identified as rotavirus in a few locations where testing is available.

Dennis McKinlay, Executive Director at UNICEF NZ said, “UNICEF has been working alongside the Solomon Islands Government and partners to distribute life-saving supplies and information leaflets to avert further casualties. We know how to prevent this fatal condition and we have the means to do it so our priority now is mobilising supplies to get them to the people that need them most urgently.”

According to the World Health Organisation and The Ministry of Health and Medical Services surveillance unit, the majority of cases are in children under 5 years and all confirmed deaths to date are in children under 3 years. These fatalities have likely been as a result of severe dehydration due to a lack of adequate healthcare and access to clean, safe water, insufficient sanitation and poor hygiene practice.

UNICEF is working in collaboration with the Ministry of Health Promotion unit to distribute thousands of hygiene promotion/information “hands” (the information is printed on colourful paper hands, to remind people about the importance of hand washing). UNICEF also has supplies of soap to give out with the “paper hands.”

Mr McKinlay added, “Oral rehydration salts (ORS) and zinc tablets are critical supplies needed for the treatment of diarrhoea. UNICEF is currently conducting an inventory of supplies and will order additional supplies if necessary.

“The most important message to get out now is raising awareness levels on the early signs of diarrhoea and for parents to take their children to clinics for treatment without delay.”

Globally, rotavirus is the most common cause of severe gastroenteritis in early childhood. In some cases severe dehydration and death can occur, particularly in malnourished children. Rotavirus infections are highly infectious and are spread by the vomit or faeces of an infected person through; person-to-person contact, contaminated objects or contaminated food or drink.

Rotavirus can be prevented by hand washing for 10 seconds using soap and water and drying with a clean towel; after going to the toilet, before preparing or handling food, before eating food or after caring for someone with rotavirus (especially after changing nappies or soiled linen).


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