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Sudan security summons ‘cholera prevention campaigners’

July 16 - 2017 EL MANAGIL / DELLING
Activists provide information about cholera to the displaced people in Zamzam camp in North Darfur, July 2017  (RD)
Activists provide information about cholera to the displaced people in Zamzam camp in North Darfur, July 2017 (RD)

Security officers in El Managil in El Gezira state have summoned a group of volunteers who set up awareness raising activities on how to prevent the spread of cholera in the area.

A listener reported to Radio Dabanga that agents of the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) called lawyer Nazar Gaddal and other volunteers to their office in El Managil on Thursday morning.

The officers questioned them about their campaign to inform the people in the area about the cholera epidemic, their distribution of disinfectants, and posters and pamphlets explaining how to prevent the spread of the infectious disease, he said. The volunteers were told to stop mentioning cholera.

In a press briefing on Friday, Sudan’s National Epidemiological Corporation condemned the action, calling it “a restriction of voluntary action”. The Commission urged the NISS “to hold those who are hiding [information on] cholera accountable, rather than targeting those who are combating it”.

Watery diarrhoea’

The National Epidemiological Corporation reported in early July, 23,930 Sudanese have been infected in Sudan, and 940 patients have died since the outbreak of cholera in August last year.

The Sudanese authorities however, refuse to call the disease by its name, and instead refer to it as “Acute Watery Diarrhoea (AWD)”.

The NISS has repeatedly warned the press in the country not to make mention of cholera. An eastern Sudanese journalist was detained for crossing this “red line” in April. In June, the director of the Omdurman Emergency Hospital was dismissed for the same reason. Later that month, NISS agents briefly detained nine activists of the Sudanese Congress Party while they were attending a seminar in Omdurman on the prevention of cholera.

Cholera “seems to be a stigma for the government,” a Sudanese specialist told Radio Dabanga in January. “Yet raising the awareness among communities about preventing cholera is crucial to containing a cholera outbreak.”

The Sudanese Doctors’ Central Committee and various volunteer groups are providing information about how to prevent the spread of cholera, supporting medical staff in makeshift isolation wards, and cleaning residential areas.

However, as a doctor told this station, “The collapse of the health services in the country requires intervention by international organisations to help eradicating the epidemic, and that can only be done if the government officially declares the cholera outbreak”.

According to the Geneva-based Darfur Relief and Documentation Centre (DRDC), the World Health Organisation should “consider seeking legal opinion from competent bodies about the responsibility of its Member States, notably Sudan, to conceal the outbreak of deadly epidemics such as cholera in the country.”

No ice cream

The health department of Delling, in the northern part of South Kordofan, have banned the sale of sandwiches and ice cream near or in the schools, in an attempt to contain the spread of cholera in the locality. Water is also not provided at the schools anymore.

Sudanese in general have their breakfast around 11 am.

“The students must now go home for their breakfast. The school’s morning break has therefore been extended from an hour to an hour and a half,” a parent told this station.

Follow #CholeraInSudan,  for ongoing coverage by Radio Dabanga

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