South Sudan: UN health agency ramps up efforts to tackle cholera outbreak

A health worker in South Sudan counts water purification sachets for distribution to patients upon being discharged from the cholera treatment unit, as part of concerted efforts to contain the outbreak. Photo: WHO/Matilda Moyo.

13 August 2015 – As the battle against cholera outbreak continues in South Sudan, the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) and its partners are boosting assistance to help children and the most vulnerable prevent and reduce the spread of further cases.

“Cholera is a largely preventable and treatable disease,” said Allan Mpairwe, Head of Outbreaks and Disasters Management at WHO in South Sudan.

In fact, with early detection, effective case management and oral rehydration salts treatment, up to 80 per cent of the cases can be successfully treated while the fatality rate can be reduced to less than 1 per cent.

“Progress is being made in providing access to safe water and sanitation for all populations and improving access to health care service for those who are sick,” said Mr. Mpairwe.

WHO and partners such as the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the state Ministry of Health are strengthening the prevention and treatment of cholera for all at-risk populations, such as children, pregnant women, elderly people and those needing special attention.

For example, the UN agency has launched health education campaigns, while considering local culture and beliefs, to promote simple but effective rules of good hygiene, safe water and food preparation.

Training health workers, intensifying surveillance activities and strengthening referral systems have also been carried out.

Meanwhile, WHO and Médecins sans Frontières (MSF) Swiss are assisting the state Ministry of Health for a vaccination campaign with oral cholera vaccine, targeting cholera transmission hotspots and vulnerable groups in Juba County.

Cholera cases have been declining since 20 July 2015. However, the threat to young children and other vulnerable groups remains high in South Sudan, unless all at-risk households have access to water, sanitation and hygiene.

As of 10 August 2015, a total of 1,519 cholera cases have been reported since June with children under five and 5-9 years of age being most affected in Juba and Bor counties.

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