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Indonesia starts quake survivor immunisation

Written by: Staff

Playen (Indonesia), June 7: Dozens of earthquake survivors, including women with babies in batik slings, lined up on Indonesia's Java island today to be vaccinated against tetanus and measles as many complained aid was slow in arriving.

Health authorities said they planned to immunise 130,000 children against measles and give tetanus shots to 1.3 million people after the devastating quake that levelled entire villages around the ancient royal capital of Yogyakarta.

So far, there have been no serious outbreaks of disease, but a World Health Organisation (WHO) official said there had been reports of nine cases of tetanus in the past two days and one person had died of suspected tetanus.

''Yesterday, we were given a figure of nine tetanus cases. And we also have been told there has been one death. We are waiting for a confirmation,'' said WHO spokeswoman Harsaran Pandey.

''We can certainly expect more cases. This is something to look out for,'' she said.

Health officials say sanitation remains a major concern after the May 27 quake that killed 5,782 people, as tens of thousands remained homeless, living under plastic sheets and tarpaulins and in donated tents.

Many are poor labourers and farmers, who make a subsistence living off rice paddys which dot the villages, and have little money to buy food, let alone building materials.

David Hipgrave, chief of the health and nutrition unit at UNICEF based in Jakarta, said health problems were under control.

''So far, there have been isolated cases of diarrhoea and measles. But the problems are being contained,'' he said.

But for many of the survivors disease was not the main worry.

Several people lining up to get measles and tetanus shots in a makeshift white tent in a school ground in Playen village said they were still to receive any food or other relief material.

''I have not received any money. I've been surviving on instant noodles,'' said Kosmariah, a 29-year-old woman who had come with her 23-month-old child.

She said the government was not supplying any drinking water and she had to trek a long distance to get water from a spring.

Some children said they were worried about going back to school next week because they had lost their bags and books.

''My school books and uniform are damaged. My school is also damaged. I don't know where to go when the new semester starts next week,'' said nine-year-old Dwi Porabasinta.


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