Health, Africa

Malaria epidemic kills more than 4,000 in South Sudan

Health official decries lack of funds to fight malaria, appeals for donations to help fight disease

Malaria epidemic kills more than 4,000 in South Sudan

By Parach Mach

JUBA, South Sudan

An outbreak of malaria in the country has killed more than 4,000 people since February this year, a health official said.

“This year’s malaria is the most severe the country has ever seen,” Dr. Isaac Mapeer, deputy head of Malaria Control Program at South Sudan’s Ministry of Health, told Anadolu Agency on Thursday.

“There is a total of over 900,000 registered cases of malaria,” Mapeer said, adding that 4,073 deaths were recorded since February, while 2,000 deaths were reported in 2016.

He said the country Epidemic Task Force headed by the Ministry of Health in partnership with UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and other partners has also stepped up efforts to fight the disease.

The health official decried the lack of funds to fight malaria and appealed for donations to help fight the disease.

Poni Gloria, a nurse in Juba Teaching Hospital, the country’s main Referral hospital, said the upsurge started in June.

Gloria said the hospital recorded 300 cases of malaria in February, 376 in March, 508 in April, 1,213 in June and more than 2,000 in July alone. In August the in-patient department registered over 5,000 cases with 250 deaths, she added.

“The situation is alarming,” she said, adding that they are now forced to make patients share beds in some wards due to lack of space. 

Anti-malarial drugs needed

The nurse said the hospital needs an urgent supply of anti-malarial drugs such as injectable quinine, IV fluids, blood and additional human resource to be able to effectively contain the current outbreak.

Dr. Ramadhan Brazilas, one of the leading malaria researchers in South Sudan, said the recent rains in the country could have led to the increase of mosquitoes’ population.

Brazilas said the discussion is in progress on whether climate change is a factor in malaria epidemics, noting that other possible factors could be deforestation, changes in use of land and water.

He said South Sudan and the region need to take steps to deal with the fresh challenge.

In July, The UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in its latest humanitarian bulletin that more than 76 percent of disease-related deaths in South Sudan are from malaria.

However, OCHA noted that closure of some health facilities due to the conflict has severely impacted the availability of healthcare and supply chain issues in the delivery of malaria drugs.

South Sudan has been plunged into chaos when President Salva Kiir accused his sacked deputy Riek Machar of plotting a coup following a political split within the country’s ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement. The power struggle turned violent, mostly along ethnic lines.

The conflict has killed tens of thousands of people, displaced 3 million from their homes and left 5.5 million at the risk of starvation. The crisis has seriously affected Primary Health Care Centers across the country, even in areas less affected by the conflict.

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