25 February 2013

South Sudan: MSF Reducing Risk of Cholera in Remote Refugee Camps

Juba — The international medical charity (MSF) said it teams have just completed a preventive cholera vaccination campaign in and around the refugee camps in Maban County, South Sudan's Upper Nile state.

MSF, in a statement, said 105,000 refugees in four camps and 27,500 residents of the area were vaccinated, with the aim of preventing possible cholera cases.

The campaign it launched in cooperation with South Sudan's health ministry is reportedly part of a cholera preparedness and prevention plan in the country.

"The key for preventing cholera is to ensure sufficient access to clean drinking water, and to have appropriate sanitation and hygiene facilities," said Paul Critchley, MSF emergency coordinator in Maban.

He added, "We are currently tackling an escalating hepatitis E outbreak in the camps, so we know that sanitation conditions here are not yet adequate. Hepatitis E is spread in similar ways to cholera, and this reinforces the need to do all we can to prevent cholera breaking out too".

The organisation, however, said remoteness of the area, has hindered efforts by its team, who had already set up and pre-stocked cholera treatment facilities, to access some camp locations with severe cases.

About 110,000 refugees from neighbouring Sudan's Blue Nile and South Kordofan states are living in various camps within South Sudan, having fled ongoing conflict in the region. Those displaced entirely depend on assistance provided by humanitarian agencies.

However, despite the logistical challenges, MSF says the innovative approach to cholera-prevention is justified in a situation where a population is exceptionally vulnerable and where the consequences of an outbreak would be particularly devastating.

"The logistical difficulty of this vaccination campaign highlights the need for further development of more field-adapted vaccines," says Jennifer Cohn, the medical director for MSF's access campaign.

Barley two weeks back, MSF medical team also provided services to people in the aftermath of an attack in Akobo West county of South Sudan's Jonglei state, in which more than 100 people died.

At least 13 patients, MSF said, received treatment in two health facilities in neighbouring Upper Nile state, most of who were women and children injured in the incident. State officials largely blamed armed Murle youth and militias fighting in the troubled region for carrying out the attack.

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