COTABATO CITY (MindaNews / 4 April) – A three-year-old girl and an elderly woman died and at least 51 others suffered severe vomitting and loose bowel movement in Bongo Island in Maguindanao due to a water-borne disease that doctors suspect could be cholera.
A total of 44 victims have so far been admitted at the Cotabato Regional and Medical Center (CRMC) since Wednesday and are now being closely monitored by doctors, according to Dr. Arcela “Weng” Abo, a municipal councilor in Bongo who has many relatives among the victims.
She said they were alarmed over the sudden deaths of the two victims last Tuesday. The fatalities, she said, caused them to immediatley move out the other suffering individuals, mostly minors, from the island.
“Sourcing out clean potable water in the island is not easy. Many of the children we brought here are already severely dehydrated,” she said. Most of the victims are children between a month and 10 years old.
At the CRMC, 22 of the 28 confined victims are children.
Dr. Shariff Manibpel, a physician at the CRMC, said he saw symptoms of cholera among the patients. “It could be cholera because some already had 10 episodes of watery bowel movement but we still have to confirm through stool examinations and stool culture in the laboratory,” he added.
Residents of Barangay Tuka Maror in Bongo Island in the municipality of Parang believe the water source from their “ balon” (deep well) could be the source of disease.
Barangay chairman Tamano Aragasin said that after the long sunny days of summer, a rain came on Sunday night. The next day, disaster came, with most of the victims reported to have drunk water from the well, he noted.
Aragasin urged local politicians who are courting the votes of Tuka Maror residents to put up a safe and convenient water system in their community.
Parang Mayor Ibrahim Ibay and Integrated Provincial Health Officer Tahir Sulaik were quoted over radio as saying that the number of victims could be more since some of the victims have not been evacuated yet due to strong waves and lack of pump boats.
Bongo Island is situated almost 19 kms northwest of Cotabato City.
The Department of Health in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (DOH-ARMM) has already dispatched an investigation and response team.
Dr. Kadil Sinolinding, DOH-ARMM secretary, said they will get water samples from the deep well to determine the cause of the outbreak. (Ferdinandh Cabrera / MindaNews)