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In response to disease outbreak, UNICEF rushes aid to Southern Sudan town

© UNICEF Sudan/2006/Musse
A woman gives water to her dehydrated baby at a health clinic in the town of Yei, Southern Sudan.

By Ben Parker

JUBA, Sudan, 9 February 2006 – UNICEF is rushing emergency assistance to the busy crossroads town of Yei in Southern Sudan in response to a deadly outbreak of disease. Sixteen people have already died, two of them children.

One of the symptoms is acute diarrhoea, which can result in fatal dehydration when proper treatment is unavailable. The exact nature of the outbreak is under investigation. Samples have been collected and are in the process of being tested at laboratories in Kenya.

The first cases occurred in late January. The outbreak spread rapidly through Yei and has now reached surrounding villages. Over 900 cases have so far been reported, about half of them involving children.

Access to the area around Yei is complicated by a long-running security threat posed by a Ugandan rebel movement, the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), which operates in the area.

UNICEF sends emergency assistance

Upon first news of the outbreak, UNICEF moved swiftly to send supplies to Yei from warehouses in Juba. UNICEF’s initial response included 20,000 sachets of Oral Rehydration Salts (ORS) and 1,000 sachets of IV fluid – both of which are essential in treating severe dehydration.

© UNICEF Sudan/2006/Musse
One of the many victims of the disease outbreak which has hit Southern Sudan, this a man is being treated at the local hospital.

Also included were other essential medical supplies, over 30,000 bars of soap, over 5,000 buckets and 100 jerry cans. All the supplies were put to immediate use in the local hospital.

The organization is continuing to send additional supplies via air from Kenya and via truck from warehouses in Rumbek. These include water storage bladders, chlorine for water treatment, soap, tools and parts for repairing broken water pumps, and equipment for drilling new safe water points.

As part of a coordinated response led by the Government of Southern Sudan’s and involving UN agencies and non-governmental organizations, additional UNICEF medical, water and sanitation stocks are being mobilized.
In addition, a broad effort is being mounted by agencies working in Yei to improve public access to clean water and sanitation. The agencies are also launching public awareness campaigns about the importance of good hygiene and clean water for disease prevention. The campaigns include house-to-house visits.

In Southern Sudan, less than a third of the population has access to a safe source of clean water. Very limited sanitation facilities and a generally poor hygiene situation worsen the threat of disease. Diarrhoea leading to dehydration is a major killer of children and contributes to a very high under-5 mortality rate.

UNICEF appeal

UNICEF is appealing for $20.3 million for water, sanitation and hygiene programmes in Southern Sudan for 2006, as part of the UN and Partners Work Plan launched in December. Contributions and firm pledges so far cover about 40 per cent of this amount.

UNICEF-supported activities here include emergency water and sanitation interventions (such as those underway in Yei). They also include long-term recovery projects to build new policy and institutional frameworks for the water sector, encourage sustainable maintenance systems, raise public awareness of hygiene issues and build capacity in rural and urban water supply and management with the Government of Southern Sudan.



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