The British medical aid agency Merlin is concerned at the continuing spread of a cholera outbreak in South Sudan.
The epidemic, which is present in seven out of ten states in South Sudan, has affected 9, 907 people and claimed 249 lives since January. Merlin is responding to the outbreak in Torit County, where the agency has treated 699 people and the disease has spread from the main town to outlying rural districts in the past month.
Cholera is a waterborne disease that causes acute diarrhoea and vomiting, and can be fatal if not treated in 24 hours. Dr Afeworki Abraham, Merlin’s Health Director for South Sudan, comments: “The scale of this epidemic is very worrying. Although outbreaks have been contained in the major towns, recent cases in rural districts means the disease is spreading and could reach across to Northern Uganda.”
In response to the outbreak Merlin has helped the Ministry of health to set up a cholera taskforce for Torit County.and has provided drugs, equipment, and training for 18 treatment facilities. Merlin also has cholera kits on standby in Lokichogio in northern Kenya, from where they can easily be distributed to South Sudan, in the case of an outbreak in neighbouring Magwi County.
Dr Aferworki continues: “South Sudan is at risk from the spread of cholera because of the movement of refugees and displaced people coupled with the poor knowledge of hygiene issues amongst communities. A chronic lack of sanitation facilities and safe drinking water forces people to use unsanitary local rivers as their main source of water, which also spreads the disease.
“There must be better water and sanitation, more equipment and more qualified health personnel in place if there is to be any hope of mitigating the effects of this epidemic.”
Merlin has been working to control the outbreak in Torit County since February the 23rd.