24 June 2015 - Eighteen people, including two children under 5 years of age, have died from cholera in the most recent outbreak to hit South Sudan. The first cholera case was reported on 27 May in the Protection of Civilians (PoC) site in Juba. Since then, 170 suspected cases have been reported inside the site and in villages across Central Equatoria State.
Unicef and the World Health Organization have immediately mounted an outbreak response, led by the Ministry of Health, to provide lifesaving health supplies and scale up preventative measures including cholera vaccinations and hygiene promotion.
“Up to 5,000 children under five are at risk of dying from cholera unless urgent action is taken to contain this threat,” said the Unicef Representative in South Sudan, Jonathan Veitch. “It is deplorable that such an easily preventable disease could destroy so many young lives.”
Children under five years of age account for 15 per cent of all suspected cholera cases. Cholera is particularly dangerous for young children as it causes rapid and severe dehydration due to excessive diarrhoea and vomiting.
Unicef and partners are supporting the establishment of Oral Rehydration points and have trained health care providers. They have also delivered cholera treatment supplies, including medicines, soap, protective equipment and tents to hospitals throughout the country. In addition, Unicef is the lead agency in the provision of safe drinking water in cholera-risk areas.
An estimated 30,000 internally displaced persons in the Juba PoC site will receive the Oral Cholera Vaccination. Hygiene promotion, including handwashing and the safe handling of food is ongoing.
The response urgently requires additional funding to ensure the outbreak is contained, especially as rainy season conditions increase the risk of transmission between now and November.
South Sudan recorded no cholera cases between 2009 and the end of 2013. However, the conflict which started in December 2013 pushed hundreds of thousands of people from their homes, forcing them to seek shelter in overcrowded camps and settlements, often without access to clean water and in poor hygiene conditions. A cholera outbreak in May 2014 killed 167 people before it was brought under control by the Ministry’s national cholera taskforce including Unicef, WHO and partners.
Along with urgent health interventions, the number of fatalities can be reduced through early detection and greater prevention awareness among communities. Unicef is broadcasting radio spots on how to prevent, detect and treat cholera on 13 radio stations, while social mobilizers are going door-to-door to provide lifesaving information to vulnerable communities.
Unicef in South Sudan urgently needs US$ 4.6 million to fund an emergency cholera response for six months.
“Unicef is working with communities and health facilities to prevent further loss of life but we are running out of funds to stop this,” Veitch said.
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