26 May 2003

Central African Republic: Lack of Clean Water Leads to Increase in Typhoid, Diarrhoea

Bangui — Cases of typhoid and diarrhoea among children in the northern town of Bambari in the Central African Republic (CAR) have increased due to lack of safe drinking water, government-run Radio Centrafrique reported on Saturday.

The radio said health facilities in Bambari, 385 km northeast of the capital, Bangui, had recorded an increase in waterborne diseases since November 2002 when the state water utility, Societe des Eaux de Centrafrique, stopped supplying water to the town after it ran out of fuel for its equipment.

The radio quoted Richard Kpale, chief doctor in the Bambari region, as urging the local population to take care of existing wells and other water sources, and to boil drinking water or disinfect it with bleach.

Located in Ouaka province, Bambari was not directly affected by the October 2002-March 2003 fighting between rebel and government troops but, like other eastern regions, the town was cut off from its supply routes, resulting in an acute shortage of basic commodities and drugs in health institutions. The fighting ended when Francois Bozize, a former army chief of staff, ousted President Ange-Felix Patasse in a coup on 15 March.

Since mid-May, the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) has been distributing drugs to six eastern provinces, including Ouaka.

Kpale said that UNICEF and a religious humanitarian NGO, the Association des Oeuvres Medicales pour la Sante en Centrafrique, would support a six-month health project against malaria, diarrhoea, respiratory infections, measles and other diseases, beginning 1 June. He said the project would also deal with pre-natal consultations.

Under the project, Kpale said, a child seeking treatment at a health centre would pay 500 francs CFA (US $0.83) for consultation and drugs while adults would pay 1,000 francs CFA ($1.66) for similar services.

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