Filipino, US personnel respond to cholera outbreak in Palaw-an
By Staff Sgt. Christine Polvorosa
| | July 28, 2011
CAMP H.M. SMITH, Hawaii --
A cholera outbreak that claimed the lives of 26 people of Palaw-an, Philippines, has been contained because of the combined efforts of the armed forces of the Philippines’ National Development Support Command and the U.S. Marine Corps Forces Pacific Experimentation Center.
Filipino officials first declared the outbreak in the native village of Culandanum, Bataraza, April 1, after at least 11 people died due to severe diarrhea, vomiting and dehydration believed to be caused primarily by contaminated water; however, other factors contributed to the outbreak.
After more than a month of preparation and coordination with Filipino and U.S. government agencies, a five-man team from NADESCOM was deployed to the island of Palaw-an, June 23, to provide aid and help prevent the possible spread of the epidemic.
The team, also trained in water purification, was equipped with an Aspen 2000DM – a water purification system on loan from U.S. Pacific Command – and arrived at Culandanum, July 1. With no time to waste, they set up the machine and immediately began their humanitarian operation.
“One of the things we found out when we got (to Culandanum) was that it wasn’t just about the contaminated water,” said Frank Duran, a MEC project manager who specializes in water.
According to Duran, other contributing factors to the outbreak were because of poor hygiene and unsanitary conditions of their environment.
Duran further explained that the NADESCOM and MEC’s purpose there during the month-long operation was as much about educating the people of Culandanum on the practices of good hygiene and cleanliness, as it was about providing them with safe drinking water.
In addition to the team purifying and producing more than 4,000 gallons of clean and safe drinking water, they also gave informational lessons on health, hygiene and sanitation, which benefited 7,322 people – the total population of Culandanum.
“NADESCOM is doing a great job operating the system,” added the Philippine-native Duran. “They do all the maintenance, repair and troubleshooting, and they’re doing everything they can to make this system work to their advantage.”
Currently, NADESCOM and MEC are exploring ideas for a more permanent solution for the people of Culandanum’s clean water needs and expect to have a new system in place in the near future.