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Sudan, World Health Organization prepare for possible cholera outbreak

August 19 - 2015 KHARTOUM
A South Sudanese woman takes oral cholera vaccine (Ali Ngethi/WHO)
A South Sudanese woman takes oral cholera vaccine (Ali Ngethi/WHO)

Last week, the federal and state Ministries of Health, with the support from the World Health Organization (WHO) conducted an assessment mission to determine the level of preparedness in the Sudanese refugee camps hosting over 198,000 people from South Sudan.

During their mission, Sudanese health officials and WHO experts focused on the camps in White Nile state where approximately 90,000 refugees are accommodated.

The joint team carried out a comprehensive cholera risk assessment to facilitate the introduction of oral cholera vaccines in the camps, WHO Sudan reported in a press release today.

“The Ministry of Health is considering the possibility of a pre-emptive use of oral cholera vaccine in the camps as a supplementary measure to early detection, improved access to water, sanitation and hygiene facilities, and health promotion to prevent a possible cholera outbreak,” said federal Health Minister Bahar Idris Abu Garda.

The assessment indicated that a potential cholera outbreak in the refugee camps is considered high, given the poor sanitation and basic services. The mission recommended, however, that the risk of cholera in the White Nile State camps could be reduced if an oral cholera vaccine can be introduced on-time to supplement with the existing surveillance, water, sanitation and hygiene interventions.

“Preventing cholera in the camps or any other setting can be best achieved through the effective surveillance for early detection, sufficient access to clean drinking water, and to have appropriate sanitation and hygiene facilities,” Dr Someya Idris Okoud, the State Minister for Health explained.

“WHO is working with the federal Ministry of Health officials to prepare a formal application to request the necessary doses of cholera vaccine from the global stockpile,” said Dr Naeema El Gaseer, WHO Representative and Head of Mission in Sudan.

She added that the situation is especially urgent given the considerable degree of overcrowding in the camps which is resulting in decreased access to health care, water, and sanitation.

Cholera outbreak in South Sudan

The first cholera case in South Sudan this year was confirmed in Juba county on 1 June. On 23 June, the South Sudanese Ministry of Health declared an outbreak of cholera in the county. Four days later, the number of cases had increased to 347, including 26 deaths.

As of 17 August, a total of 1,607 cholera cases, including 45 deaths, have been reported in Juba and Bor counties in Central Equatoria and Jonglei respectively, according to the joint WHO-South Sudanese government Situation Report #57 on cholera in South Sudan.

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