Cholera in Papua New Guinea: LDS Doctors’ Perspective

  • 10 December 2010

Article Highlights

  • The Church sent two LDS doctors to help treat critically ill cholera patients in Papua New Guinea.
  • The doctors treated hundreds of patients in a week’s time.
  • The doctors arrived with relief supplies provided by the Church.

“[It] was the most professionally rewarding experience of my life.” —Dr. Anthony Mahler.

Two LDS doctors from Australia recently returned from a Church-sponsored trip to Papua New Guinea, where thousands have been afflicted with cholera and hundreds have died, including dozens of Church members.

Dr. David Williams of Brisbane and Dr. Anthony Mahler of Cairns spent a week working with hundreds of patients in remote villages in northwest Papua New Guinea, some who were near death. Dr. Mahler mentioned one man who was minutes from death when he arrived at the hospital, and others who would not have lasted 24 hours without treatment.

Dr. Williams expressed a willingness to return and continue to help the people, noting that even where medical supplies were available, there were not enough people qualified to use the supplies. “The people were very grateful to have two doctors arrive,” he said. In many areas, people’s knowledge of the disease was so limited that it was dangerous; Dr. Williams encountered people who were not eating or drinking because they feared contracting cholera. Countering cholera will require education about the disease “repetitively and consistently for years to come,” he explained.

In the meantime, the doctors worked hard to meet the people’s immediate medical needs. On their flight to Papua New Guinea, they were accompanied by relief supplies including medical aid and water purifiers. Food shipments and soap were also shipped to the crisis areas from the Church in Port Moresby, and shipments of personal hygiene kits are being sent from Port Moresby and Brisbane.

The Church is also sending a missionary couple with expertise in water treatment to Papua New Guinea to help with coordination and relief efforts, and has also offered to pay for more doctors in New Zealand and Australia to travel to Papua New Guinea to treat cholera patients.

Visit Newsroom for more on the Church's response to the Cholera outbreak in Papua New Guinea and Haiti.