Darfur — The World Health Organisation (WHO) announced that the Darfur yellow fever epidemic is "Africa's worst in decades", Radio Dabanga has learned on Friday, 7 December.
Anshu Banerjee, a WHO country representative, declared that the yellow fever outbreak in Darfur could now "definitely" be classed as the largest one since at least 1990.
In addition, the WHO released an update stating that as of 4 December a total of 732 suspected cases of yellow fever have been reported in Darfur, including 165 deaths.
A different report from the WHO and the Sudanese Federal Ministry of Health indicated the figures comprise a period starting on 2 September this year.
The disease, according to the WHO, has been reported in 33 out of 64 localities in Darfur so far.
Six cases emerge in Zalingei
Speaking to Radio Dabanga on Friday, Issa Mohamed Moussa Ahmed, minister of health of Central Darfur, announced the Zalingei hospital recently received six patients infected with yellow fever.
The minister said that four of these patients come from the gold mining area of Jebel 'Amer in North Darfur, while the other two come from the localities of Wadi Saleh and Umm Dukhum in Central Darfur.
Ahmed declared that 80 people have died and 405 others were infected with yellow fever as of Thursday night. Central Darfur is reportedly the most affected state by the disease.
However, the minister stressed to Radio Dabanga that yellow fever cases have not yet been registered in the following Central Darfur localities: Azum, Nertiti, Umm Shalaya and Mukjar.
On Thursday, Radio Dabanga reported that several residents from Zalingei locality complained that security services are preventing anyone who does not have a yellow fever vaccination card to leave the area.
When questioned about these claims by Radio Dabanga, the minister asserted that official authorities were not aware that this has been happening.
Nevertheless, he promised to send officials to investigate the situation. Besides, he added that if yellow fever cards are in fact being sold, he will take "strict measures against those who are obstructing the flow of traffic in Central Darfur".
At the same time, the minister admitted that there is a shortage of yellow fever vaccination cards in the state since the first week of the campaign.
He explained that 50 percent of the cards destined to Central Darfur were mistakenly sent to Nyala, South Darfur, adding they should arrive in the state shortly.
Lastly, the minister instructed citizens to visit the ministry's vaccination department to receive their cards. He clarified that anyone who was vaccinated should be registered and will receive a card accordingly.
Tests confirm disease
According to the WHO, laboratory tests conducted at the National Public Health Laboratory in Khartoum confirmed yellow fever in 40 clinical samples.
It added the tests were run with the support from the US Naval Medical Unit 3 (NAMRU-3) and WHO Collaborating Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases.
A comprehensive assessment of the outbreak is ongoing, WHO says, to obtain additional epidemiological, laboratory and entomological information to understand the evolution of the outbreak and the risk of the epidemic.
Yellow fever is difficult to diagnose. It can be confused with severe malaria, dengue or other haemorrhagic fevers. Blood tests are the most reliable way to diagnose yellow fever. (WHO/K. Eltahir)
On another occasion, the WHO announced that "fighting and banditry makes access [to parts of Darfur] particularly difficult", adding that healthcare is provided almost entirely by aid agencies.
In addition, it stated that people between the ages of 15 and 30 comprise nearly half of the yellow fever cases. Besides, it continued, about a quarter of the infected are children aged between five and 15.
Lastly, the organization stated that there is no effective treatment for the hemorrhagic fever, but that vaccination is the most important preventive measure against the disease.
One of the challenges in the vaccination campaign is reaching people who live in remote areas. Donkeys are being used to carry yellow fever vaccine to the far-flung villages of Rukero and Golo in Central Darfur, which are inaccessible by road and in which there are security issues. (WHO/C. Banluta)