News Release

Volunteer Doctors Add New Numbers to PNG Cholera Statistics

Two Australian volunteer doctors returning from the cholera outbreak in Papua New Guinea treated 400 cases in one week in the Fly River Delta.

Dr David Williams (Brisbane) and Dr Anthony Mahler (Cairns), from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, warn the situation in PNG continues to need funding and support.

The Church, which has recorded 71 deaths among their members in PNG, has sent 25 tonnes of emergency food and medical supplies for the relief effort as part of an overall package worth 200,000 dollars.

Dr Mahler, who arrived back in Australia on the weekend, said "Treating the people of the Bamu River was the most professionally rewarding experience of my life. It was very demanding to work in the difficult conditions presented to us. But there was no greater satisfaction than seeing severely dehydrated infants respond quickly to treatment."

"The local people were very helpful in bringing the sick to us in their canoes. In our first 24 hours at the village of Sogere we treated over 200 cases of Cholera, including 30 severe cases. These people came from more than ten local villages."

"We greatly appreciated the advice provided by the medical staff at the Daru hospital and the relief provided by MSF."

The Church is working with AusAID, Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), and the World Health Organisation to care for the sick, and to educate communities.

Brisbane doctor David Williams said, "One of the most challenging moments was in the small village of Sisiama when I had to kneel in the mud for over an hour holding an IV cannula in an infant's femoral vein as he kicked and squirmed. At the same time, we were giving his mother IV fluids because her breast milk had dried up. While this was going on she was vainly trying to breast feed him to give him some comfort."

"... some people had not had anything to eat or drink, they were so fearful of contracting cholera."

"Educating about what food is safe to eat is imperative."

Though exhausted and sunburned Dr Williams says he would return to the isolated villages to help the people. "There are supplies in Daru but there is a shortage of people qualified to administer them. The people were very grateful to have two doctors arrive."


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