HC Deb 27 October 2003 vol 412 cc50-1WS
John Barrett

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development if he will make a statement on the diarrhoea epidemic in the north west region of the Central African Republic. [133765]

Hilary Benn

Several epidemics of diarrhoea have been reported in different regions of the Central African Republic. The most recent epidemic was confirmed north west of the capital, where at least 40 people died in late September 2003. A similar outbreak was detected and contained in August 2003.

Areas of the north were severely affected by six months of war between the Government and rebel troops, and this has adversely affected health and water facilities.

In response, the EC Humanitarian Office (ECHO) and the European Development Fund (EDF) launched a €1.77 million emergency programme to revamp and re-equip health facilities in nine war affected provinces of the Central Africa Republic, disbursing resources through international NGOs. This has involved rehabilitation of health facilities and equipment, the mobilisation of medical personnel and medical supplies, as well as the establishment of an efficient management system. UNICEF is also jointly involved in a six-month health project combating waterborne diseases, including the disbursement of drugs to six war affected regions.

A joint Government-NGO (Medicos Sin Fronteras MSF-Spain) medical team began work in July 2003, educating local leaders on water hygiene and providing local health centres with drugs to help fight the disease. Tests have also been undertaken on wells to check which need to be purified. Health authorities have since resumed the immunisation of children in the north west region of the Central African Republic.

Clean water supplies have now been restored in Bozoum and its surrounding areas since October 2003, which should help halt the spread of diarrhoea.