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UNICEF and WHO move to support Sudan in controlling outbreak of yellow fever

Khartoum, 17 November – The World Health Organization and UNICEF have taken immediate action to support the Ministry of Health to respond to a deadly outbreak of yellow fever in South Kordofan in Sudan.  Three weeks after the onset of the outbreak of the disease that was initially attributed to dengue, another mosquito-spread disease, UNICEF and WHO have provided the Ministry of Health and partners in South Kordofan with drugs, bed nets, vaccines, insecticides, spraying equipment and other supplies, as well as logistical support.

Over 400 cases and 117 deaths have been reported so far.  “With an almost one-third fatality rate and reported cases increasing every day, we may be dealing with a major epidemic,” Dr. Guido Sabatinelli, WHO Representative in Sudan, said today.  “But everyone is moving quickly to confine the epidemic.  An immediate mass vaccination campaign is planned covering almost 2 million people in South Kordofan.  Everyone in South Kordofan older than nine months old has to be vaccinated urgently.”

The last documented yellow fever outbreak in the Nuba Mountain region of central Sudan was 65 years ago, in 1940.  At the time, an estimated 15,000 cases and 1,500 deaths were reported.  Case fatality rates in a yellow fever epidemic can reach 50 percent.

“In the current outbreak, yellow fever virus kills children under five years at an even higher rate.   Almost 50 percent of children who contract yellow fever might die,” said Mr. Ted Chaiban, Representative-designate for UNICEF in Sudan.  “That is why UNICEF has already mobilized 240,000 doses of vaccine and is taking steps to secure the balance needed for total vaccination.”

Nomadic populations and children were initially the most affected, with one-fourth of the deaths of children younger than 15 years old reported.  

The two UN agencies moved into high gear in October when the first cases were reported.  UNICEF provided 1.2 metric tonnes of essential drugs, oral rehydration salts, blood pressure measuring equipment and 16,500 long-lasting insecticide-treated nets.  UNICEF also provided spraying devices and the insecticide Deltamethrin for spraying in mosquito-ridden areas.

WHO deployed special medical teams to the area to assist the Ministry of Health in South Kordofan and local and international organizations working in the area.  In addition, WHO is training health staff on case detection and treatment for yellow fever patients and volunteers on spraying techniques.  The UN agency also supports the State and Federal Ministry of Health staff to strengthen the surveillance system and to identify high-risk areas for planned preventive actions.

Thousands more cases can be prevented through the spraying of mosquito-infested areas and removing stagnant water where mosquitoes breed.  “We encourage people to remove any stagnant water in their households and neighbourhoods,” Dr. Sabatinelli stated.  “We rely on the people’s initiative to control the disease in their environment.”

UNICEF’s Chaiban noted that parents should inquire about the availability of yellow fever vaccine and ensure all children over nine months old are vaccinated in the coming days.

Special task forces comprised of staff from the State Ministry of Health, WHO, UNICEF, UNMIS and NGOs including Save the Children U.S., Medair and/or MSF-France have been established in each locality to ensure regular information flow, undertake surveillance, take preventive actions and to ensure early detection and management of yellow fever cases.

WHO and UNICEF launched an emergency appeal of US$ 5.8 million for phase one for the five affected areas. 

Mali and Guinea are also experiencing yellow fever epidemics, which may put a strain on available resources.

For further information, please contact:

Paula Claycomb, UNICEF Media, Khartoum:
+249-12-309410 pclaycomb@unicef.org

Anis Salem, UNICEF Reg’l Communication Adviser, Amman:
+962-6-553-9977, asalem@unicef.org

Claire Hajaj, UNICEF Media New York: +1 212 326 7566,

Susanna Christofides, Sudan +249-12-167156,

Sacha Bootsma, Sudan +249 12 174679,

Dr. Ahmed El Genainy, +24912167163,
elgenainya@SUD.EMRO. WHO.INT





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