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South Sudan: Fears that cholera outbreak will spread as rains begin

21 May 2014 - Fears are mounting that a cholera outbreak in and around Juba, which has already killed nine people and reportedly infected another 188, will spread among tens of thousands of people still living in over-crowded, unsanitary camps as the rainy season approaches.

The outbreak in Juba began several weeks ago, with World Health Organisation (WHO) reports suggesting that it has already spread beyond the city to other parts of Central Equatoria state.

Several new cases have since been recorded in Jonglei and Upper Nile states, and UNICEF report that their cholera caseload is now doubling on a daily basis.

Preliminary figures indicate that most patients who reported to the cholera treatment centre at Juba Teaching Hospital had been drinking untreated water from the River Nile supplied by water tankers.

Other factors that may have helped spread the disease include poor latrines, eating foods sold on the roadside and at makeshift markets, poor personal hygiene, the handling of dead bodies, and unsupervised burials.

‘Christian Aid is liaising with our partners on the ground to make sure that we respond as quickly as possible to the cholera outbreak,’ said Amos Ndiri, country manager for Christian Aid South Sudan.

‘Using ACT Appeal funds, our partner the Sudan Peace & Education Development Programme (SPEDP) is  implementing a cholera awareness programme as part of its current sanitation and hygiene work in Tombek Payam IDP camp, Terekeka County, Central Equatoria, for 1,800 civilians who have fled the recent violence in Bor, Jonglei state.

‘Some staff will also be trained by UNICEF on how to respond to the cholera outbreak, and we will distribute water containers and filters to ensure clean, safe drinking water,’ he added.

Five months of protracted civil war has displaced more than 1.3 million people, left an estimated 4.9 million in need of urgent humanitarian assistance, and severely disrupted the crucial crop planting season and basic health services, with famine predicted in some pockets of South Sudan in the coming months.

If a lasting ceasefire cannot be reached between the two warring factions, headed by President Salva Kirr and ex-Vice President Riek Machar respectively, half of the population will have either fled, be starving, or have died by the end of the year, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon warned recently.

If you would like further information please contact:

Adrian Horsman on +44 (0)28 906 99 123 (Belfast office direct), +44(0)7710 764 093 (mobile), email ahorsman@christian-aid.org

Florence Mutesasira on +353 (0)1 775 8085 (Dublin office direct), +353 (0)87 160 9405 (mobile), email fmutesasira@christian-aid.org

Notes to editors:

1. 188 cholera cases from WHO sources on May 21st 2014.

2. Christian Aid works in some of the world's poorest communities in around 50 countries at any one time. We act where there is great need, regardless of religion, helping people to live a full life, free from poverty. We provide urgent, practical and effective assistance in tackling the root causes of poverty as well as its effects.

3. Christian Aid’s core belief is that the world can and must be changed so that poverty is ended: this is what we stand for. Everything we do is about ending poverty and injustice: swiftly, effectively, sustainably. Our strategy document ‘From Inspiration to Impact’ outlines how we set about this task.

4. For more information about the work of Christian Aid visit http://www.christianaid.ie