"The groundwork of all happiness is health." - Leigh Hunt

From injuries to infectious diseases, what are the health risks resulting from PNG landslides?

It has been every week in Papua New Guinea (PNG). Landslides I Enga Provincewithin the mountainous regions of the country.

greater than that 7,800 people More than 3,300 children have been affected by the landslides. This may mean that they're displaced from their homes or lack access to basic necessities.

gave The exact death toll It's still unknown, and estimates vary, however the numbers could also be there. A maximum of 2,000 or more. Estimating the death toll in disasters comes along. A range of challenges And we may never know the true variety of lives lost.

But even many survivors can suffer serious injuries and illness, warning of a vital Risk of disease outbreak in the realm.

So what are the potential health risks after a landslide? And what can we do to scale back them?

From injuries to illness

Like many natural disasters, Landslides Can result in serious physical damage. Fast-flowing water and debris may cause injury and death. People can turn out to be trapped as landslides move buildings, structures and other people in unexpected ways.

The Enga landslide occurred in the midst of the night, which sadly meant that the majority people didn't escape in time.

Early Efforts After a natural disaster, the main focus is nearly at all times on minimizing casualties and providing mandatory and immediate medical assistance.

Once the situation is stabilized, a health situation on the bottom could also be required. Risk assessment To assess potential public health impacts and further determine community needs.

Enga province consists of rugged mountains, valleys and rivers.
EPA/International Organization for Migration (IOM)/AAP

Other natural disasters show us that this is probably going. Increased risk Disease outbreaks after landslides. This can include water-borne diseases, corresponding to diarrhea, possibly as a consequence of disruptions in access to wash drinking water, in addition to poor sanitation and hygiene.

Skin diseases, corresponding to scabies and yaws (a bacterial infection), are commonly found in PNG.which may also result in spread with close contact in overcrowded settings.

Heavy rain and Landslides Can also result in the spread of mosquitoes and other vectors. This can increase the chance of vector-borne diseases, corresponding to dengue, especially if the disease is already circulating, which is the case in PNG.

PNG is certainly one of the few countries within the Pacific Ocean where Malaria transmission continues.. The region may subsequently even be vulnerable to increased cases of malaria (one other mosquito-borne disease).

We may even see a rise in vaccine-preventable diseases. A tsunami hit the Indonesian city of Aceh in 2005 Outbreak of tetanus. While Tetanus Not spread from individual to individual, contaminated wounds in people where vaccine coverage is low can result in tetanus cases and death.

Aceh also saw Clusters of measles Due to overcrowding in post-tsunami displaced populations, with patchy vaccination coverage.

Weakness of the health system.

The risk of infectious disease outbreaks in PNG stems from some fundamental weaknesses within the health system, and Poor health outcomes. For example, i PNG, it's estimated that for kids under the age of 5, 41 children die out of each 1,000 live births. I AustraliaThe number is ten times lower, at 4 deaths per 1,000 live births. There are also disparities in maternal mortality and infectious diseases corresponding to HIV.

Nationally, PNG's immunization rates are low. For example, in 2023, coverage of the primary dose of measles vaccine for kids only 52%. Because measles is extremely contagious, 95% of children Must be vaccinated with a minimum of two doses of measles vaccine.

Low vaccination coverage can result in outbreaks during natural disasters, so PNG could also be in danger.

gave Risk of spread of infectious diseases May even be affected by barriers to accessing health care services. This may lead to delays. Diagnosis and treatment of infections.

Reducing risks

Such a disaster would have severe social and economic impacts that will last for a while. We also know that individuals affected by natural disasters can face. Mental health issues And Gender-based violence.

In addition to providing medical care, local and international agencies are working to offer shelter, clean water and food, and mental health support to affected people.

Over the approaching days and weeks, it is going to be vital to maintain a detailed eye on the health situation in PNG. This would require close coordination and leadership amongst local, national and international agencies.

Local people are unloading aid from Australia at Appenmanda Airport in the highlands of PNG.
Australia and other countries are providing aid to PNG.
Juhu Walta/AP

As basic health care is restored across the affected area, a vital aspect of stopping an outbreak is to be efficient. Disease surveillance system in place. This may be done. Detect outbreaks early.enabling a rapid response.

For example, after Cyclone Winston in Fiji in 2016, a A similar monitoring system Outbreaks of influenza, conjunctivitis and typhoid were detected. This sparked a public health response to stop further spread of the infection.

rough road

PNG, just like the Pacific more widely, is vulnerable to Health risks from climate change Due to geography, rising temperatures and communities living in distant areas.

I Last ten years, PNG has experienced cyclones, droughts, floods, earthquakes, volcanic activity and landslides. We know that climate change can increase risks. These types of natural disasters.

Places like PNG are liable to landslides as a consequence of their geographical location, terrain and climate. Landslides are also difficult to predict.

Finally, the health impacts of natural disasters and other emergencies may be mitigated. preparationStrengthening health systems, and Minimize the effects of climate change. Apart from specializing in helping people in Enga province, these are the things we ought to be working towards.