The World Health Organization (WHO) and partners are racing to cope with the health needs of thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in northeastern South Sudan where fighting continues and the humanitarian situation remains dire.
More than 10 000 people have arrived to the Malakal protection-of-civilians (PoC) site since 1 August 2015 stemming from a month-long aid blockade to the region. The influx brings the total number of asylum seekers in the PoC to 46 567, with families crammed together with little or no access to safe water or sanitation.
“Malakal PoC is now a home for thousands of South Sudanese and overcrowding easily results in water contamination and diseases like dysentery, bloody diarrhoea, hepatitis E and cholera,” says Dr Allan Mpairwe, Head of Outbreaks and Disasters Management at WHO in South Sudan.
Given the vulnerability their situation, there is an urgent need to strengthen coordination mechanisms to scale up the health services, provision of water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services to prevent disease outbreaks.
“There is a serious need of health care services and access to clean drinking water and sanitation. WHO and health cluster partners are racing to ensure WASH supplies are available to prevent infections and the spread of diseases, especially in vulnerable populations like children, pregnant women and the disabled,” adds Dr Mpairwe.
Besides cholera and other water-borne diseases, malaria, measles and polio are other significant public health threats to IDPs. In response to the rapid influx, additional clinics and outreaches have been opened in order to improve access to prevention, screening and treatment of these serious threats. WHO has supported the health cluster partners to vaccinate over 37 000 IDPs with the oral cholera vaccine during the first round and the second round is expected to begin on 1 September 2015.
To prevent malaria and other vector-borne disease, response actions have been undertaken to improve access to timely and appropriate care, interventions to interrupt community transmission and coordination of behaviour change communication. With the support from WHO and partners, stocks of artemisinin combination therapy (ACTs), malaria diagnostics, and other malaria case management supplies have been dispatched to Malakal and other deep front areas. The WHO immunization programme and vaccination teams are positioned to vaccinate all new arrivals in the PoC site against measles and polio.
Coupled with this situation, WHO and partners are also responding to a cholera outbreak which has affected more than 1600 people and resulted in 43 deaths (CFR 2.85%) from May to 15 August 2015 in South Sudan’s Juba and Bor counties.
To help fund these life-saving initiatives, WHO has mobilized resources form the Common Humanitarian Fund (CHF) and the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) grant to meet the most critical needs. Funds are being allocated for outbreak response, case management of the common but potentially fatal illnesses, basic emergency obstetrics care services, strategically prepositioning of emergency medicines, life-saving surgical interventions and reducing the high burden of morbidity of malaria and other communicable diseases.
The WHO Representative’s Office in South Sudan will continue to support the Ministry of Health and health cluster partners at the central and subnational level to strengthen health services to deliver effective, safe, quality interventions to those in need.