South Sudan: Cholera outbreak could kill thousands, officials say
Doctors, aid workers and officials in South Sudan are warning of a cholera outbreak that could kill thousands of people in the world’s youngest nation.
People displaced in South Sudan’s ongoing civil conflict are most at risk, according to health officials. Outbreaks at UN camps for displaced civilians highlight the dangers of the disease in crowded spaces and experts now fear an outbreak in hospitals would have a “devastating” impact.
Uptake in cholera cases
More than 2,500 cases of cholera have been confirmed since April, which marks a worrying uptake in infections over recent months. The total number of confirmed cases for the previous year is now 8,000, claiming at least 250 lives in that time period.
South Sudan’s population has endured years of conflict, resulting in displacement, food insecurity, malnutrition and the elevated risk of contagious diseases. With the country’s stubborn conflict raging on, officials in the country fear these side-effects will only get worse.
Last week, a UN-backed report announced that South Sudan is no longer in famine, despite the number of people facing starvation increasing.
Fears over hospital outbreak
Health officials in South Sudan are now warning about the possibility of a cholera outbreak in hospitals. In Juba last week, the overcrowded Al-Shabbah children’s hospital reported three cases of the highly infectious disease.
“The fear is that such an infectious disease in this very overcrowded hospital could be devastating,” said the hospital’s director, Dr Felix Nyungura. “The children are very weak and we don’t have enough drugs. The demand is huge.”
Last year, there were outbreaks at UN displacement camps and health officials are concerned that conditions could once again deteriorate now that the rainy season has come to South Sudan.
“Last year we had cholera incidents in the camp and now the rainy season is here cholera is the big concern,” said Thomas Makur, administrator at one of the UN camps.
Featured image: By DFID – UK Department for International Development – Working with UNHCR to help refugees in South Sudan, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=26240425