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Millions at risk in Sudan as diseases rage - WHO

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Mar 31, 2006 (GENEVA) — Millions of people are at risk from deadly diseases such as cholera and meningitis in Sudan, the World Health Organisation (WHO) warned on Friday, appealing for funds urgently to combat major outbreaks.

UNICEF photo shows casualties of a Cholera outbreak in the town of Yei, south Sudan, Feb 15, 2006.

"A significant increase in disease incidence and in preventable deaths is expected unless the shortfall of $24 million (13.8 million pounds) in funds for health are provided immediately," said Ala Din Alwan, WHO’s representative for health action in crises.

The United Nations agency, in a statement, predicted "adverse consequences for the health of millions of people throughout Sudan" unless funds were secured for its 20 projects.

"Over the last six months, Sudan has experienced major outbreaks of epidemic diseases such as acute watery diarrhoea and cholera, dengue, yellow fever, monkey pox and meningitis, placing additional strains on already stretched health care services," it said.

Meningitis, which has struck at least 1,335 people in 15 of Sudan’s 25 states, is likely to spread further due to the lack of essential drugs and vaccinations, it said. An infection of the lining that surrounds the brain and spinal cord, it is spread by sneezing, coughing and living in close quarters.

An outbreak of acute watery diarrhoea has affected nearly 9,400 people in seven of the 10 states in southern Sudan, causing 248 deaths, WHO said.

Cases of acute watery diarrhoea were being reported daily in new locations, it added.

It was not clear how many of these cases were cholera, a water-borne disease which causes vomiting and acute diarrhoea that can lead to dehydration and death within 24 hours if not treated swiftly.

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