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South Sudan: Cholera threatens lives of thousands during harsh rainy season

23-07-2014 Operational Update

With the rainy season nearly at its peak in South Sudan, cholera continues to spread in the war-torn country. The South Sudan Red Cross is working hard to prevent further spread of the epidemic in Eastern Equatoria and Upper Nile states, supported by its Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement partners.

Inadequate sanitation conditions and a lack of safe drinking water put thousands already affected by violence at further risk. “With thousands of people affected and nearly 100 deaths reported already, the cholera epidemic that began mid-June has rapidly spread. The epidemic spreads fast if no immediate measures are taken," said ICRC engineer Jonathan Pease, who is coordinating the organization's water and sanitation response.

"The lack of toilets in many areas and the onset of the rainy season means that faeces are being washed into the rivers from which people have to obtain their drinking water. This can be deadly," he added.

The combined response of the ICRC, the South Sudan Red Cross, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and other Red Cross Societies differs from one location to another, depending on the local situation.

In Torit, the ICRC and the South Sudan Red Cross have created a temporary emergency water treatment system that is providing up to 40,000 people with safe drinking water. The Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies is also responding with safe water solutions to fight deadly disease.

“When I heard that cholera was killing so many people, I was shocked. My people don’t deserve it. First they were killed by bullets and now a disease that can easily be prevented is killing them," explained Martin Lungur, 24, a South Sudan Red Cross volunteer from Torit.

In Torit, hundreds of committed volunteers like Martin are going house-to-house, distributing oral rehydration salts and soap and demonstrating how to take care of basic hygiene and use water purification tablets.

“We tell people that washing hands and boiling water can save their lives," Martin continues. "I remember this eight year old boy in one of the houses we visited. He had cholera but his mother had no idea what to do about it. I gave him oral salts and took him to hospital. He survived. Saving his life is the biggest achievement of my life."

To pass on this potentially life-saving information, South Sudan Red Cross personnel are also using radio spots, talk shows and presentations at markets and other public places.

In Kodok and Lul, where local radio is unavailable, the ICRC and South Sudan Red Cross are setting up portable sound systems in public places. These include the port, where the two organizations have installed cholera treatment centres, footbaths and hand washing facilities for people arriving and leaving by boat to prevent spread of cholera.

In several other counties, the South Sudan Red Cross has launched awareness activities in the areas affected by cholera outbreaks, working with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and other Red Cross Societies. The ICRC is complementing this response in areas particularly affected by armed conflict.

At the same time, the ICRC and the South Sudan Red Cross are also:

  • improving the existing water supply system and extending networks to reach cholera treatment centres and primary health centres in Kodok;
  • setting up water treatment in Lul for some 6,000 people;
  • installing oral rehydration stations in key locations affected by the outbreak;
  • constructing some 125 latrines in important public places such as schools and markets;
  • distributing soap, buckets and jerrycans.

Since the beginning of the epidemic in mid-June, the ICRC has:

  • provided hygiene items, chlorinated water and increased water supply in Juba and Torit prisons;
  • constructed 300 latrines in Awerial County in Lakes state, home to the single largest concentration of displaced people in South Sudan, to improve hygiene and sanitation conditions and as a preventive measure against cholera.

For further information, please contact:
Pawel Krzysiek, ICRC Juba, tel: +211 912 36 00 38
Jean-Yves Clémenzo, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 370 22 71 or +41 79 217 32 17


Photos

Donkey carts are a common means of transporting water from the River Keniati. Upstream, children and women can be seen bathing and washing clothes. People drink the same water, resulting in cholera and other water-borne diseases 

Torit County, Eastern Equatoria, South Sudan, July 2014.
Donkey carts are a common means of transporting water from the River Keniati. Upstream, children and women can be seen bathing and washing clothes. People drink the same water, resulting in cholera and other water-borne diseases
/ CC BY-NC-ND / ICRC / N. Iqbal / v-p-ss-e-00535

Information about safe water has spread fast in Torit and surrounding areas. 

Torit County, Eastern Equatoria, South Sudan, July 2014.
Information about safe water has spread fast in Torit and surrounding areas. Donkey carts rush to collect the precious liquid from the emergency water treatment plant (in the background) set up by the ICRC and South Sudan Red Cross. The plant can provide water for up to 40,000 people.
/ CC BY-NC-ND / ICRC / M. Nganga

Volunteers from the South Sudan Red Cross explain how to use water purification tablets. 

Juba, South Sudan, July 2014.
Volunteers from the South Sudan Red Cross explain how to use water purification tablets.
/ CC BY-NC-ND / ICRC / P. Krzysiek / v-p-ss-e-00528

Volunteers from the South Sudan Red Cross spotted this women suffering from cholera during their house-to-house public awareness campaign.  

Torit County, Eastern Equatoria, South Sudan, July 2014.
Volunteers from the South Sudan Red Cross spotted this women suffering from cholera during their house-to-house public awareness campaign. Her two children had died of cholera a few days previously. The Red Cross took her to an oral rehydration station, and she was later transferred to hospital.
© South Sudan Red Cross / M. Mayom / v-p-ss-e-00532

A South Sudan Red Cross volunteer supervises a footbath station in the port of Kodok. 

Kodok, Upper Nile, South Sudan, July 2014.
A South Sudan Red Cross volunteer supervises a footbath station in the port of Kodok. The ICRC and the South Sudan Red Cross have set up footbath stations, handwashing facilities and latrines in the areas most exposed to cholera, to prevent the disease from spreading.
/ CC BY-NC-ND / ICRC / C. Lee