LDS Church sending aid to island nations to fight cholera

Published: Friday, Dec. 10 2010 9:53 p.m. MST

SALT LAKE CITY — In response to deadly cholera outbreaks in island nations on opposite hemispheres, the LDS Church is sending humanitarian aid to Papua New Guinea and Haiti.

In Papua New Guinea, local LDS leaders report 75 cholera-related deaths among church members. Reports estimate the total death toll to be in the hundreds.

"We express our deep love and concern for those who have been affected by this epidemic," said Elder Brent H. Nielson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' Pacific Area Presidency. "We offer our sincere condolences to those who have lost family or friends."

To date, the church has sent 25 tons of emergency food and medical supplies to the affected regions, with the church's first food shipment from Port Moresby, New Guinea, arriving Nov. 24 in Daru, the capital of the country's Western Province. The initial shipment included eight tons of rice, four tons of fish, four tons of flour, 1,000 cakes of antibacterial soap and four tons of cooking oil

Meanwhile, the church's Salt Lake City Humanitarian Center shipped to Port Moresby 2,500 water bottles, to be used in making stream and catchment water clean enough to drink.

Cholera is spread primarily through consumption of contaminated water.

In Papua New Guinea, the LDS Church and its members are working with other nongovernmental aid organizations, such as AusAID, Médecins Sans Fronti?es/Doctors Without Borders, the World Health Organization and other groups for both medical care as well as prevention education.

"The local people were very helpful in bringing the sick to us in their canoes," said Dr. Anthony Mahler, a volunteer physician from Australia who is part of the response team. "In our first 24 hours at the village of Sogere, we treated over 200 cases of cholera, including 30 severe cases."

Meanwhile, in the Caribbean nation of Haiti, a major cholera outbreak continues to take lives. The Ministry of Health reports more than 2,000 have died, with nearly 45,000 requiring hospitalization since the outbreak.

The LDS Church is providing a shipment of tents, large water-filtration units, rehydration salts and hygiene supplies in response to the crises, in addition to previous shipments sent to the area.

The cholera outbreak is the latest in a series of disasters befalling Haiti since the Jan. 12 earthquake that killed an estimated 230,000, injured some 300,000 and resulted in a million Haitians being left homeless.

e-mail: taylor@desnews.com

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