By Shamindan Kanapathi
A few weeks ago, I wrote of how the food ration that the men in Hillside camp receive has been reduced and the quality of the food is considerably less than what is at the lowest scale of acceptable for humans. Not only is the food not nurturing, sometimes obviously dangerous, and the amount not enough, but the men in Hillside camp have not been given adequate sanitation and the toilets are not being cleaned properly.
Now, two men in the Hillside camp on Manus Island have been diagnosed with Typhoid Fever. Poor sanitation, contaminated water and food are some of the main factors responsible for typhoid. Each of these factors are present in Hillside. Unhealthy diets, including uncooked food and reheated food, unclean water, the damaging effects of being detained that affect our immune systems, and the accumulation of toxins in our bodies that have resulted from the unhealthy life-styles forced upon us, make it difficult for us to fight typhoid fever which is easily spread in a prison camp environment.
After the two men were diagnosed with Typhoid fever were flown to Port Moresby. A maintenance team was bought in to clean their rooms with the aim of stopping the virus from spreading. A man who shared the room with one of the infected men was taken to Pacific International Hospital (PIH) Clinic on Manus Island for a medical checkup but was sent back to camp without any medical checkup.
The PIH is contracted by the Australian government and runs a basic, ill-equipped clinic on Manus Island, offering even more inferior health care than was available to us in the past years. This clinic for refugees does not have the capacity to treat sick men. When someone is sick and needs anything other than basic first aid, let alone to be isolated and kept in an intensive care unit, the PIH send the sick man to Lorengau local hospital where there are very limited facilities. The local hospital is overwhelmingly overcrowded, so much so that even one patient adds more pressure and trouble than the local community can hold. To send the sick refugees to Port Moresby where the PIH is, requires various approvals from the authorities. This practice of requiring various approvals of course takes time and can be dangerous, as we have seen with our friend Hamed who died because of the delay by authorities of approvals to move him to a hospital that could treat his infection.
This outbreak of Typhoid fever is worrying us all. The two ill men have been sent to the PIH in Port Moresby, but the local staff need to be given proper medical checkups as do the refugees. Most of the men and staff are not being given enough information on how to prevent this kind of disease from spreading.
Keeping men confined in camps lacking basic hygiene, quality food and depriving them of appropriate medical support can easily lead to this situation. There is an answer to preventing the further spread of such a disease. There is an answer to ending the exacerbation of trauma. It is well over time for the camps to be closed.
On this Easter Good Friday I’m calling the Australian people to call their politicians to account for the ongoing violence against us and to bring an end to this devastating policy enacted by your name.
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