August 16, 2007 (GEDAREF, Sudan) — Two-year old Muwada Suleiman Mohamed lies unconscious on a metal cot, his trousers soaked with watery diarrhoea that drips through to a pan below.
Mohamed, attended by his grandmother, is one of 763 victims of a cholera outbreak spread by devastating floods in east Sudan over the past two months. At least 53 people have died.
"We have had 45 patients and 9 deaths since the first of July," said doctor Mowahib Sidi Ahmed at the cholera treatment centre in Doka village where Mohammed lies.
She bemoaned the poor health education of villagers, a factor worsening transmission of the acute intestinal infection, which is spread by contaminated water or food.
Cholera causes vomiting and acute diarrhoea that can lead to dehydration and death within 24 hours if not treated.
"Most of the people who die are the young children and the elderly," said Mohamed Abdur Rab, a World Health Organisation (WHO) official visiting the centre.
Officials in east Sudan said they were distributing chlorine to sterilise water, repairing latrines and spraying insecticides to try to stop the spread of cholera as well as mosquito-borne malaria.
But they are also appealing for more international aid agencies to help in the region, one of the poorest in Sudan.
The outbreak started in Gedaref state, where there was little infrastructure to cope. The health ministry has now set up seven cholera treatment centres in the state.
The smell of chlorine fills the sparse rooms of the centre in Doka, furnished only with rusty metal cots that have no mattresses so that diarrhoea can pass through to metal pans below.
Doctor Sara Abdullah explained how the worst floods in living memory had helped spread the disease.
"After the rainfall, the water carried faeces and human waste and it got into the wells," Abdullah said.
Khadija Mohamed Issa, 15, said three members of her family had become severely ill after drinking water from the family well.
"When the rains came, it filled up. We still drank from it," she said, stroking the head of her four-year-old brother, Mortada Suleiman Mohamed, who lay limp on a metal cot, a pan of diarrhoea below him.
She said the village had been suffering from the sickness for months and while she knew that it could be caught from food or water she was unsure exactly where it had come from.
Last year a cholera outbreak throughout Sudan killed 700 people and affected 25,000. It was the first time in many years the disease had been reported in Africa’s largest country.