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Sudan Tribune

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S. Sudan: UNHCR step up efforts to “alarming” health situations

July 3, 2012 (JUBA) – The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) and its partners have intensified efforts to reverse the alarming rates of malnutrition, disease and death in the two South Sudan based camps hosting thousands of Sudanese refugees.

An average of five children, according to an international medical charity, Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), reportedly dies every day in these camps, mainly from diarrhoea and other infections.

“We are targeting the most vulnerable refugees in the camp to improve sanitization and minimise the risk of respiratory infections in these households. The distribution of other supplies such as plastic sheeting and buckets will continue throughout the month,” said Melissa Fleming, the UNHCR spokesperson.

Mortality and morbidity rates, according to Fleming, had in the last three weeks, stabilized and even decreased, as aid agencies had taken urgent action to address the root causes. However, in addition to providing emergency treatment, the aid agencies were reportedly also working to mitigate the risk of water-borne and hygiene relate diseases.

This week, MSF said new epidemiological data from two refugee camps in South Sudan show mortality and malnutrition rates were soaring above emergency thresholds.

More than 170,000 refugees, according to MSF, have made the harrowing journey across the border to escape conflict and food insecurity in Sudan’s Blue Nile and South Kordofan States.

“Many had to walk for weeks and have arrived in four refugee camps in
an extremely weak and vulnerable condition,” it noted, particularly citing two of the camps where people reportedly live in appalling living conditions, resulting in devastating health consequences.

“The number of children dying in Yida camp is appalling and the 1,200 children with severe acute malnutrition in MSF’s feeding programme in Batil camp is just the tip of the iceberg,” said André Heller-Pérache, MSF head of mission.

He pointed out that the majority of patients in both camps are malnourished children who are further weakened when they contract diarrhoea, malaria or respiratory infections.

“They quickly enter a vicious circle of illness that can lead to further complications and death,” he added.

An estimated over 200,000 Sudanese refugees, UNHCR says, have been displaced into neighboring South Sudan and Ethiopia, having fled the fighting in Sudan’s South Kordofan and Blue Nile States.

(ST)