Solomon Islands

Fears for deadly outbreak of dengue fever in flood and quake hit Solomons

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Fears for deadly outbreak of dengue fever in flood and quake hit Solomons as houses washed onto runway of the nation’s main airport

Saturday, 5 April 2014 - 9:34am

There are fears for a deadly outbreak of dengue fever in the Solomon Islands after the worst rains in living memory forced 50,000 people to flee their homes and seek shelter in cramped conditions with poor sanitation, warns Save the Children.

Australian Graham Kenna from Save the Children is in the nation’s capital Honiara. He said, “Thousands of people are living in schools and other cramped conditions with poor sanitation and relying on rainwater for drinking. We know this is likely to lead to diarrhea and infections, while there is also a serious risk of a dengue fever outbreak,” Mr Kenna said.

Meanwhile, the UN has called for a large-scale humanitarian response in the Pacific Island nation after flash flooding ripped houses from the ground and washed bridges away leaving Honiara isolated from the rest of the country.

At least 49,000 people are displaced and living in evacuation centres and other makeshift accommodation, with 16 people confirmed dead and dozens more still missing.

Save the Children is assisting the National Disaster Management Office (NDMO), as well as working with interagency response teams and continuing to carry out assessments in Honiara despite relentless rain, and preparing to distribute aid as soon as practicable.

A strong 6.0 magnitude earthquake also rocked the Solomon Islands late on Friday night, striking at a depth of 63km about 240km southeast of Honiara. It was felt across the country, however there are no reports that it has added significantly to the enormous damage already caused by flooding.

“The earthquake was the last thing we needed, frightening people who have already been through so much,” Mr Kenna said.

“The scale of destruction is like something never seen before in the Solomon Islands. A house has even been washed onto the runway of the international airport. The raging floodwaters have washed entire homes out to sea, smashing the city of Honiara to bits.

“We’re deeply concerned for the safety, wellbeing and protection of children in this disaster, which is already the worst to hit the nation in living memory.”

Save the Children has child friendly items ready for distribution as soon as practicable, including plastic sheets, buckets, jerry cans and blankets, and is sourcing more emergency relief items from around the world.

Save the Children has been working in the Solomon Islands since 1986, responding regularly to disasters including earthquakes, cyclones, tsunamis and flooding.