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Chronic hunger takes its toll in Binga

I arrived in Binga yesterday and was immediately requested to attend an emergency meeting. It seems that cholera has reached this district and there are reports coming from a number of sites in the district. It was decided that a “Task Force” would be chosen to visit one of he areas affected to make an assessment and to report back to the district development committee.

We left early the next morning and drove for two and half hours to reach the health centre. This centre is located in what should be thriving, bustling “growth point”, but the terrible sate of the roads meant that no bus company was prepared to risk their vehicles. So, it is effectively cut off with no transport, no phones and no way of communicating with the nearest town.

When we arrived at the clinic I immediately saw a woman lying on the ground outside the buildings, a drip hanging from the branch of a tree. We found only three nurses at the clinic – there should be 14. They said that in the past 13 days they had had over 100 cases of severe diahorrea at the centre.

The Save the Children doctor was there to support the Ministry of Health staff and showed them how to treat the patients and protect themselves from infection and from spreading the disease further.  His investigations revealed that most of the cases were not in fact cholera but caused by malnutrition which is leading people to eat wild roots and tubers for extended periods of time. Also this area does not have enough safe, clean water.

It was huge relief to find that we did not have a major outbreak on our hands, but I was very aware that actually that would have been easier to help with. A cholera outbreak can be simply managed by those who know what they are doing. But, how can we solve the chronic hunger and desperate need for clean water in this desperately poor area? That is a much more difficult task that needs long term support and funding from donors.

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