Indonesia's quake-hit Lombok declares health emergency over malaria

Indonesia's quake-hit Lombok declares health emergency over malaria

A shallow 6.9-magnitude quake on August 5 levelled tens of thousands of homes, mosques and
A shallow 6.9-magnitude quake on August 5 levelled tens of thousands of homes, mosques and businesses across Lombok AFP/ADEK BERRY

JAKARTA: Indonesia's tourist island of Lombok is battling malaria, authorities said on Saturday (Sep 15), declaring a health emergency after a series of earthquakes in July and August forced hundreds of thousands to flee their homes.

The quakes and aftershocks that killed nearly 500 people are estimated to have caused damages of 5 trillion rupiah (US$338 million) to hospitals and public infrastructure, among other buildings, on the island's northern coast.

Foreigners clean up the damaged parts of their restaurant after  Sunday's earthquake on Gili T
Foreigners clean up the damaged parts of their restaurant after the earthquake on Gili Trawangan. (Antara Foto via REUTERS)

Hundreds of people crowded the beaches of Gili Trawangan, a small island off Lombok, on Monday
Hundreds of people crowded the beaches of Gili Trawangan, a small island off Lombok, awaiting evacuation after the quake. (Photo: AFP/Handout)

Lombok is less developed than its neighbouring island of Bali, which is Indonesia's top tourist destination.

After the quake, aid groups said many of the hundreds of thousands left homeless were camping in open fields, refusing to seek shelter indoors as tremors continued.

READ: Gili island quake: The Singaporean girl who stayed put to help

Women and children are among the 128 people found to have been infected with malaria, Rahman Sahnan Putra, the chief of the West Lombok Health Agency, told Reuters by telephone.

"It's an extraordinary occurrence of malaria," Putra said, confirming that an emergency had been declared.

The local government was seeking 3.4 billion rupiah from the central and regional governments to help fund mosquito nets, test kits and the emergency response effort, he added.

Although malaria is endemic in West Lombok, recent tests revealed a spurt in infections, another regional official said.

"There was a mass blood survey and the entire community was checked," said Marjito, the chief of the health agency of West Nusatenggara, the province that is home to Lombok.

The incident was being treated as a "standard outbreak", Marjito said, adding that those testing positive for the disease are treated, counselled and their surroundings sprayed with disinfectant.

Many of those infected had been living in tents after the quakes and did not get proper rest, making them more vulnerable, he added.

"When people with malaria are weak, that's when issues arise," Marjito said, adding that authorities were mapping areas where malaria is endemic and planned to distribute thousands of mosquito nets as a preventive measure.

However, officials fear efforts to rein in the disease will be complicated by the arrival of the rainy season next month, as malaria-carrying mosquitoes breed in pools of stagnant water.

Assistance from the central government includes training for health officials in the use of microscopes to boost disease tracking, which had been disrupted by the disaster, said health ministry official Anung Sugihantono.

"When they started carrying out observations properly, they found more cases, and because of this, that area has declared a state of emergency," he added.

Source: Reuters/aa

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