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Amidst heavy floods, disease prevention efforts in Sudan show results

Incidence of acute watery diarrhoea in northern states just 12 per cent of 2006 levels

KHARTOUM, 23 August 2007 – Efforts to prevent major disease outbreaks during the annual rainy season appear to be showing results, with less than 800 cases of acute watery diarrhoea reported in only two states in the north of Sudan since April, compared to just under 6,000 in nine states during the same period last year.

The figures will be welcomed by government authorities and aid agencies battling to bring shelter, medicines and other supplies to some 365,000 people affected by flooding in many parts of north Sudan. Contaminated water sources and flooded latrines increase threats from diarrhoeal disease and cholera; however, agencies such as UNICEF have increased preventative measures since last year’s outbreak of acute watery diarrhoea which claimed the lives of more than 900 people across the whole country.

“UNICEF and its partners had pre-positioned water chlorination supplies in a number of states now affected by floods, which has enabled us to support water treatment for 1.6 million people so far,” said UNICEF Representative Ted Chaiban. “In addition, we have pre-positioned vital medical supplies to treat any cases of diarrhoeal disease quickly and effectively – including more than 1,200 drug kits for primary health care centres, 422,000 sachets of oral rehydration salts, more than 33,000 bottles of antibiotics and over 17,000 bottles of intra-venous fluids.”

“Public information and awareness has also been critical,” added Chaiban. “Since May, UNICEF has supported community mobilization around health and hygiene promotion, the production and dissemination of information materials to over half a million people, and the airing of radio and television spots  and programmes reaching more than 10 million people across the north of Sudan. With Gedaref State showing the highest incidence of acute watery diarrhoea and cholera, we need to redouble our efforts in that area and ensure communities themselves play an active role in disease prevention.”

UNICEF has also been working to tackle malaria in the north of Sudan, another killer disease often exacerbated during and after floods. Since January, UNICEF has supplied 520,000 insecticide-treat bed nets to provide protection to families along with 700,000 doses of anti-malaria treatments. Across Sudan, less than one-fifth of households have access to such nets, while malaria is believed to affect 20 per cent of children under the age of five.

“Provision of these bed nets at the beginning of the rainy season is vital to protecting families against malaria,” said Chaiban. “Malaria is also easily preventable, but potentially fatal – especially for children. These preventative measures are therefore also life-savers.”

As part of a multi-agency effort, led by the Government of Sudan alongside agencies such as WFP, WHO , the UN Joint Logistics Centre and many non-governmental organizations, UNICEF has played a significant role in rushing relief to those worst affected by the current flooding, which has hit nine states in the north of Sudan and three in Southern Sudan. Some 340,000 people have been assisted by UNICEF through the provision of non-food items such as plastic sheets, cooking utensils and blankets, the supply of essential medicines and drugs, and the delivery of water treatment and hygiene promotion programmes.

The UNICEF Representative warned that the risk of disease outbreaks still remains, noting that the incidence of acute watery diarrhoea in Southern Sudan was much higher, with nearly 9,000 cases reported in the first half of 2007.

 “The UN estimates that if the heavy rains and flooding continue as predicted, a further 265,000 more people could be affected in some way,” said Chaiban. “We will continue to step up efforts not only to assist those in immediate need, but also ensure that water supplies are re-established and that families are better informed of what they can do themselves to reduce the risk of waterborne diseases.”

UNICEF’s flood response and disease prevention efforts have received significant support from a number of donors, including ECHO, the United States and Japan, as well as the UN’s Common Humanitarian Fund (CHF) and Central Emergency Response Fund.

UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence.  The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS.  UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.

For further information, please contact:
Eddie Carwardine, UNICEF Sudan,  e-mail: ecarwardine@unicef.org
Patrick McCormick, UNICIEF Media, 212 326 7452 e-mail: pmccormick@unicef.org
Veronique Taveau, UNICEF Geneva, 41 22 909 5716 e-mail: vtaveau@unicef.org




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