Villagers Flee as Boy and Woman Die in Ratanakkiri

A 10-year-old boy and a middle-aged woman died on Monday from acute watery diarrhea in Ratanakkiri province’s Lumphat district, prompting residents to flee the affected village, officials said yesterday.

The deaths of two more Kreung ethnic minority villagers bring the total deaths to five since a severe diarrhea outbreak began on Sunday in Lbaing I commune’s Katoeng village, district governor Kung Srun said.

“Some villagers, including bereaved families, have fled away from the village. They worry about catching the infection,” he said, noting that the villagers’ flight may cause the outbreak to spread.

Residents are afraid to stay in the village and have abandoned the corpses, including that of five-year-old boy, without burial, Mr Srun said.

“They run away from the dead bodies,” he said. “Our authorities are therefore responsible for burying these.”

District health center director Say Soeung said that relatives of half of the village’s ten families have died in the outbreak. Health officials went to provide treatment and education about sanitation yesterday, Mr Soeung said.

“We went to treat the patients, but some of them had left the village,” Mr Soeung said.

Some people started to suffer from diarrhea at their farms but came back to die in the village, Lbaing I commune chief Pev Vil said.

“More people are continuing to get sick and some families have fled,” Mr Vil said.

Hoh Sochanda, Ratanakkiri maternal health team leader at NGO Health Unlimited, said that 12 cases of acute watery diarrhea and five deaths were reported in Lumphat district, which is the fourth in the province to be affected by outbreaks.

“Everyone is scared and afraid of diarrhea, but they don’t think about [its causes] and draw water from the stream to drink,” Mr Sochanda said.

Sok Touch, director of communicable disease control, said that Health Ministry staff had been sent to Lumphat but said he was too busy to say more.

Twenty-eight deaths from acute watery diarrhea in Ratanakkiri province have been reported so far this year.

(Additional reporting by Alice Foster)


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