Health Agencies cite insecurity as a major setback to fighting cholera

Twelve-year-old South Sudanese William Nyarcoth has spent five days in a cholera treatment center at Juba Teaching Hospital after developing severe diarrhea that left him dehydrated and weak.

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The ailing teenager is receiving treatment for suspected cholera infection, which the South Sudan ministry of health said has been reported on more 140 people. Meanwhile, six deaths have been recorded since a suspected cholera outbreak was declared on July 18.

choleraNyarcoth’s mother, Martha James said she suspected her son contracted cholera after he consumed unhygienic food at a center for displaced people in Juba after seeking safety there following days of fighting the capital.

“My child ate in the evening and he went to bed without any problem. The next morning he woke up with a terrible diarrhea accompanied with vomiting. We took him to a military hospital where they immediately rushed us to a cholera treatment center in Juba Teaching Hospital,” Martha told Xinhua on Saturday.

According to Martha, she has learnt a lesson after seeing the devastating effects of diarrhea on her child and dozens of other patients admitted at the cholera treatment facility.

“I have seen how bad this disease (cholera) is. Look how my child has grown thin… I urge people to be careful with their hygiene,” Martha told Xinhua.

The UN children’s fund (UNICEF) said on July 20 that dozens of people may have cholera following a rise in suspected cases in the capital Juba, Terekeka and Jonglei states.

However, the mystery still remains unconfirmed due to lack of laboratory equipment needed for diagnosis.

UNICEF South Sudan spokesperson, Timothy James Irwin, told Xinhua that tackling the current outbreak seems difficult because of security threat to aid workers, bad roads and reduction in number of aid partners needed to deliver health services to affected populations.

“It won’t be easy to contain the outbreak within the current context where the majority of national and international organizations have significantly scaled down their operation and geographic access to affected population is constrained as a result of the prevailing security situation, the rains and bad roads,” said Irwin.

Irwin said despite formation of an emergency task force by the Health Ministry and World Health Organization (WHO) to arrest the current outbreak, continued behavioral change and communication efforts are required to ensure immediate health-seeking behavior in high risk areas.

He said UNICEF is working with the ministry of health to supply sanitary materials, tents, cholera beds and hydration supplies and also engaging in social mobilization campaigns to rescue the situation.

WHO said on July 9 that the latest wave of violence in South Sudan has forced many health facilities to shut down, rendering basic health services inaccessible in some parts of the country.

The UN estimates that about 14,900 people remain displaced in Juba following fighting that erupted on July 7 between rival army factions in the country.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) says that combined efforts need to be put in place to stem the spread of cholera throughout the country.

“Good hygiene is crucial to stemming the spread of cholera. IOM is intensifying training of health and hygiene promoters to spread basic messaging on best practices such as hand washing and drinking safe water,” said Kelsi Kriitmaa, IOM South Sudan migration health programme manager. Enditem

Source: Xinhua/News Ghana

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