11 November 2018

Sudan: Concerns Over Spread of Disease Following Rains in Port Sudan

Port Sudan — The residents of Port Sudan, capital of eastern Sudan's Red Sea state, have complained of the spread of flies and mosquitoes due to recent rains. They expressed concern over the emergence and spread of diseases of ophthalmic, malaria, diarrhoea, and typhoid.

Journalist Osman Hashim reported to Radio Dabanga on Friday that "the city is witnessing serious environmental degradation and is drowning in a sea of waste, holes [in the road?], and water ponds."

He added, "the bad smells are everywhere."

At the time of talking to Hashim, the authorities had not yet sprayed the city, filled the holes, or dried the water ponds.

Sudan's Federal Ministry of Health announced [when?] that are 10 million people in the country who live without proper or any sanitation and are forced to use the open with no toilet available. The Ministry has acknowledged "the emergence of health problems as a result of the habit".

Poor sanitation, health risk

Poor sanitation and contamination of drinking water are blamed for the spread of diseases such as cholera and chikungunya, which have become endemic in parts of the country.

In October, the Sudan Call, a coalition of opposition parties and armed movements, submitted a memorandum to the director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO) drawing attention to "the terrible collapse in the health sector, the spread of epidemics in Sudan such as cholera, and its transformation into an endemic disease amid government misinformation".

The outbreak of chikungunya fever, popularly known as kankasha, began in August after heavy rains hit Sudan's eastern Kassala state and El Gash river flooded large pieces of land. In October, health sources told Radio Dabanga that the number of patients admitted to health centres and private clinics in the eastern Sudanese state was increasing. Government officials reported that at least 13,400 people in Kassala are infected with the mosquito-borne disease.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has confirmed in a report that laboratory tests of samples from the infected people in Sudan's Kassala state show cases of dengue fever along with chikungunya.

Lack of action

Independent MPs have criticised the Health Minister's lack of recognition of the severity of chikungunya, stating that the recent report "hides the facts". Speaking to the state parliament on 26th September, Health Minister Mohamed Abuzaid denied that any deaths have been reported due to chikungunya fever in Kassala state.

The independent MP of El Fashaga, Mubarak El Nur, described the report of the Minister of Health as "provocative and hiding the facts" and stressed that the situation in Kassala catastrophic.

Activists are calling on social media for support to halt the epidemic. On Twitter for example the hashtag #KassalaIsDying is being used (#كسلا_تحتضر). They accuse the Sudanese authorities of sweeping the real numbers of infected people under the carpet, and criticise them for not doing enough.

Chikungunya is a virus transmitted by the same kind of mosquito that spreads the dengue and zika viruses. It is characterised by an abrupt onset of fever, frequently accompanied by joint pain. There is no specific antiviral drug treatment for chikungunya. Treatment is directed primarily at relieving the symptoms, including the joint pain. Most patients recover fully within weeks, but in some cases joint pain may persist for several months, or even years. Serious complications are not common, but in older people, the disease can contribute to the cause of death.

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