China: MSF signals serious threat of diseases in Guangxi province
13 July 1998
Beijing - The risk of infectious diseases spreading among the 5.2 million people who are affected by the recent severe flooding in Guangxi Province is becoming more serious by the day. According to Marcel Roux, Medical Coordinator for MSF in China, "the situation is much worse than what I saw in Guangxi [after the floods] two years ago, as the rains came earlier this year and wiped out almost 100 per cent of this year's rice harvest in the worst affected counties". MSF currently estimates the total number of homeless at 480,000. Another 98,000 people are still cut off from the outside world in Tengxian County. MSF is planning to assist the affected population by supplying basic drugs for 1.3 million people and by providing tarpaulin for temporary shelters for the homeless, following a request for assistance from the Provincial Ministry of Civil Affairs. The drugs will be distributed through mobile medical teams. MSF will also supply township and country hospitals with essential medicine. MSF is particularly focussed on restoring access to safe drinking water. "The faster we can move on water and shelter, the less chance we have of seeing the spread of dysentery and other diseases," said Roux. MSF has started the distribution of 75 tonnes of chlorine. MSF has sent a special disaster relief medical team to Guangxi. Roux and his team are working in the worst affected counties: Cangwu, Tengxian, Pingnang, Guiping and the city of Wuzhou. They handle the procurement and transportation of much-needed antibiotics and tarpaulin, they monitor the distribution of these relief materials and they supervise the chlorination of the water supply. MSF has been working in Guangxi with the Public Health Bureau for almost three years, running a pilot public health programme to train village doctors and to rehabilitate five township hospitals. MSF is also improving water and sanitation in Guangxi.