A news release: WHO and partners battle multiple disease outbreaks in South Sudan. Excerpt:
In a conflict setting, WHO and partners are responding to multiple outbreaks including cholera, malaria, measles, suspected hemorrhagic fever, and kala-azar.
“In spite of the insecurity, WHO is taking every opportunity to ensure that we reach the people with health care services to protect them at this time when the health system has crumbled,” says Dr. Abdulmumini Usman, WHO Representative to South Sudan.
Displaced people risk cholera
Cholera was confirmed in Juba on 21 July 2016 in the aftermath of the recent escalation of violence in Juba where clashes between the military and opposition forces resulted in hundreds of people dead and thousands displaced. As of 6 September 2016, a total of 1762 cholera cases, including 26 deaths had been reported from five states: Juba, Terekeka, Jonglei, Eastern Lakes and Imatong.
WHO is working with partners to respond to the cholera outbreak, including treating approximately 1700 cholera patients and sending health promoters to visit around 88 000 households with prevention messages and items such as water purification tablets, oral rehydration solution and soap. Additionally, WHO has participated in an extensive health promotion campaign which has reached over 2 million people countrywide with cholera prevention messages through radio talk shows, radio spots and interviews on 17 radio stations.
Malaria on the rise
More than 1.3 million malaria cases have been reported since the beginning of 2016. Malaria cases started rising in early May and, during the week of 30 May 2016, an outbreak was declared in Bentiu, a camp for internally displaced people. By 28 August 2016, 31 counties in 8 states had exceeded the malaria epidemic threshold countrywide. Since May, over 800 000 people have received treatment for malaria through static, outreach and mobile health teams. WHO has supported airlifting of malaria medicines and commodities and malnutrition kits to Northern Bahr el Ghazal, one of the most affected states, and has donated malaria medicines and commodities to affected areas in 6 other states.
Vaccination best protection against measles
Since the beginning of 2016, more than 1600 measles cases, including at least 19 deaths, have been reported countrywide. WHO has confirmed and responded to measles outbreaks in 12 counties. Since the fighting escalated in mid-2016, around 182 000 children have been vaccinated against measles. A follow-up campaign is planned for October 2016. Ensuring the majority of children receive vaccination is the best protection against this highly contagious disease.
Deadly disease spread by sandflies
Kala-azar is the most severe form of leishmaniasis, a disease spread by sandflies. It causes fever, weight loss, anemia, enlargement of the spleen and liver, and is fatal if left untreated in most cases. The disease is endemic in parts of the country. In 2016, more than 1000 cases including 42 deaths have been reported in South Sudan. WHO co-leads the kala-azar taskforce and is supporting deployment of rapid response teams to affected areas. WHO also helps train health workers at treatment sites, provide weekly analysis of data and deployment of supplies such as rapid diagnostic kits and medicines to the treatment centres.