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No respite for South Sudan: cholera down but malaria and parasitic disease up – MSF

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Fri, 29 Aug 2014 14:25 GMT
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A woman waits in a queue to collect water at the Yusuf Batil refugee camp in Upper Nile, South Sudan, July 4, 2012. REUTERS/Adriane Ohanesian
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NAIROBI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – South Sudan’s cholera crisis is waning but humanitarian workers are now battling increased cases of malaria and the parasitic disease kala azar, with children most affected.

Conflict between the government and rebels has displaced 1.7 million people, or one in seven of the population, since December, with famine on the horizon.

At least 10,000 people have been killed since the fighting erupted in late 2013, pitting President Salva Kiir's government forces against supporters of Riek Machar, his former deputy and longtime political rival. 

While a cholera outbreak appears to be under control, other diseases are plaguing South Sudan’s hungry, displaced people.

The latest emergency operations are focusing on malaria and kala azar, a parasitic disease transmitted by the bite of a sandfly which is usually fatal without treatment. MSF treated about 200 people for kala azar in Upper Nile State, one of the areas worst hit by fighting, in July.

With the onset of the rains producing stagnant water for mosquitoes, there has also been a “spike” in malaria, MSF said.

MSF treated almost 700 malaria cases in Pamat and Aweil, the capital of northern Bahr el Ghazal State in July, mostly pregnant women and children. There are tens of thousands of displaced people in the area, which is to the west of the main oil-rich conflict zone.

The appalling conditions in which the 1.1 million internally displaced live increases their vulnerability.

"Camps for the displaced have been turned into flood zones, forcing people to live in virtual swamps without adequate supply of clean drinking water, latrines or sanitation," MSF said.

CHOLERA IN DECLINE

Between April and mid-August, 5,868 cholera cases have been reported, including 130 deaths, the United Nations said in its latest update.

"MSF is now seeing a decline in cholera cases in many areas," the medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) said on Thursday.

MSF has closed two of its cholera treatment centres in the capital, Juba, where the outbreak began, while maintaining one treatment unit.

The displaced camp inside the United Nations base in Bentiu, Unity State, is one of the largest, sheltering 45,000 people. Most of the shelters are flooded or damaged, MSF said, with people wading knee-deep through muddy water.

"Although mortality rates in the camp have been reduced, at least one child is still dying every day," it said. "Many of these deaths are preventable and are directly attributed to inadequate living conditions."

Malnourished children easily fall prey to malaria because their bodies are so weak.

(Editing by Ros Russell, rosalind.russell@thomsonreuters.com)

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