* Any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Juba, May 9 2017 - South Sudan faces the longest and most wide-spread cholera outbreak since its independence. Concerns are that the outbreak may intensify during the upcoming rainy season. The outbreak comes on top of already high humanitarian needs and a severe food crisis. Medair, an international emergency relief and recovery organisation, is doing everything it can to help people survive the disease and stop the outbreak.
Exacerbated by poor sanitation, lack of safe drinking water, and high levels of displacement, cholera broke out in July 2016, a week after fighting broke out in Juba, South Sudan’s capital. Since then, the highly contagious waterborne disease has followed the path of the Nile River to many other areas in the country.
The high number of cholera cases is unprecedented for this time of the year, the end of the dry season.
An estimated 74% of the South Sudanese population has no access to adequate sanitation and around 59% of the population drinks unsafe water every day, which sadly provides an environment in which cholera can easily spread.
In addition, access to health care is extremely limited in many areas of the war-torn country; many people are hours or even days away from a health facility. “A disease such as cholera, which can kill in hours, is particularly concerning in a context where people may have to walk hours to even access health services,” says Dr Liz Lewis, Medair’s Health Advisor in South Sudan.
Recently, Medair’s Cholera Assessment Team found hundreds of suspected cholera cases and reports of many deaths in a remote and hard-to-reach part of Ayod County (in the swamps of Jonglei).
Dr Liz Lewis says: “The people in this affected area only have dirty water from the swamps to drink. At the same time, the swamps are also used for defecation. This forms a major source of contamination and with very few health services available in the area, many lives are at immediate risk of being lost to cholera.”
To bring the outbreak under control in Ayod, Medair is working to set up a cholera treatment unit to ensure access to safe water and sanitation. Due to limited access, Medair works closely with the affected community to mobilise community volunteers. These volunteers walk long distances to receive training and cholera prevention and treatment supplies so that they can take back life-saving health care to their community.
The World Health Organization has also asked Medair to conduct mass Oral Cholera Vaccine campaigns targeting the most vulnerable populations in the ongoing outbreak. In February, Medair vaccinated 30,772 people in two days against cholera in a very remote area during a ‘head count’ by the World Food Programme. Currently, Medair is vaccinating up to 85,000 people in the displacement camp in Mingkaman, which is struggling with a cholera outbreak. This will help protect them against the deadly threat of cholera for at least two years.
Information for the press
- Since the violence erupted in December 2013, the UN estimates that more than 3.5 million people have fled their homes, including nearly 1.9 million people who have been internally displaced.
- 1,599,815 South Sudanese have sought protection in refugee camps in Ethiopia, Sudan, Kenya, and Uganda.
For enquiries and interviews from South Sudan, please contact Diana Gorter, Communications Officer (Dutch, English) firstname.lastname@example.org +211 (0)927 475 150
Medair’s South Sudan programme is supported by the European Commission, the United States Agency for International Development, Common Humanitarian Fund, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), UK aid from the UK government, Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in partnership with Tear NL and through the Dutch Relief Alliance Joint Response for South Sudan, and private donors.
For more information on Medair’s South Sudan programme, click here.
This release was produced with resources gathered by Medair field and headquarters staff. The views expressed herein are those solely of Medair and should not be taken, in any way, to reflect the official opinion of any other organisation.
Photos of Medair’s work in South Sudan are available in high resolution. Please email Diana Gorter: email@example.com.