26 Mar 2004

Vanuatu Red Cross fears malaria and dengue spread because of food shortage

11:23 am on 26 March 2004

The head of the Vanuatu Red Cross says a shortage of food in some areas is making people more susceptible to contracting certain diseases, following last month's devastation caused by Cyclone Ivy.

David Neal says the immediate needs of providing shelter and replacing lost possessions have been dealt with and the focus now is to get food to those who need it.

Mr Neal says the government is trying to provide emergency supplies of rice and the ministry of health is trying to get 20 thousand mosquito nets to the worst affected areas.

But he says the lack of food means cases of malaria and dengue fever could start to rise.

"There are some communities that are relying on green bananas and very little else so they desperately need rice. The big problem is when people don't have sufficient vitamins in their diet, in the way of greens and root crops and things like that, then they become more and more susceptible to mosquito diseases and water-borne diseases."

Mr Neal says by the end of the week, the Red Cross will have finished distributing food to boarding schools and their cyclone relief work will come to an end.