An outbreak of cholera in South Sudan that began in May is spreading. The UN is reported to be moving displaced people from a camp in Juba to other sites to reduce the risk of thousands of people becoming infected.
An outbreak of cholera in South Sudan has now spread beyond the capital Juba and is affecting other parts of the country. The country is already at risk from famine as a conflict between forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and supporters of his former deputy Riek Machar continues to wreak havoc. On Tuesday (03.06.2014) South Sudan's Health Minister Riek Gai Kok said new cases had been confirmed to the south and southwest of Juba as well as in Jonglei and Upper Nile States to the north. The number of fatalities at that point was put at 27, with more than 1,000 people infected. Cholera is transmitted through drinking contaminated water or eating contaminated food. The disease causes severe diarrhea which is often fatal. For an assessment of the outbreak in South Sudan, DW spoke to Sophie Sabatier, emergency coordinator with Doctors without Borders (MSF).
Sophie Sabatier: The cholera started about two weeks ago and since then more than 1,000 people have been treated in the capital Juba. The main factors for the spread of the disease are poor hygiene and sanitation conditions. So people in poor parts of the city are more at risk than those in richer parts. There are also two camps in Juba where internally displaced people live. Those camps are not yet badly affected but could be if the cholera continues to spread. The people in the camps were vaccinated three months ago and so far there have been very few cases there. For now we are waiting. We do not know if they will be affected or not.
What is being done to stop the disease from spreading?
There are a few cases in other parts of the country and MSF is very concerned about that, especially in a place called Yei in the south where there have been 12 suspected cases of which one was confirmed. MSF is sending a team of three people to carry out an assessment.
If cholera spreads to other parts of the country, MSF is ready to help. MSF has projects in other parts of the country which can help if cholera spreads there.
It's not as if this outbreak in Juba was unexpected. We knew from the conflict and the movement of people that such an outbreak could occur. Why didn't the authorities and health workers do more to prevent it?
It is very difficult to prevent it. What they did in some places like the camps - where an outbreak is more likely to happen - was to vaccinate people there.
What advice would you give to those who are suffering from cholera or who believe they may be infected?
If people develop the symptoms - which are vomiting and watery diarrhea - they should seek medical care as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the more likely it is that the disease will become severe. Here in Juba there are four treatment centers where people can go and MSF is planning to open two more.
Sophie Sabatier is an emergency coordinator with Doctors Without Borders (MSF). She is currently in Juba.
Interview: Chrispin Mwakideu
Author Chrispin Mwakideu
Editor Mark Caldwell