Officials in South Sudan report spike in malaria, pneumonia cases
Situation alarming especially in primary health centers as facilities run out of drugs, official says
JUBA, South Sudan
Health officials in South Sudan are reporting a spike in malaria and pneumonia cases with the onset of the rainy season.
Officials said many cases are children who have been admitted to the pediatric ward of the hospital In Rumbek, the capital of Lakes State.
Acting Director-General of the Ministry of Health in Lakes State, Barnaba Bol Amukpiu, said a lack of wards for admission of children has become a serious issue which led to three to four children sharing one bed and others have to sit on chairs.
Cases in the hospital include rampant voting, diarrhea, cough and malaria, among others.
Amukpiu said the number of patients discharged daily is estimated to be more than 100 children, and the number of children in the ward is 582 -- beyond the capacity of beds in the hospital.
“The only option is when the administration agreed with clients or patient to go home with his/her kids after the injection and come back for the dose as prescribed by the doctor. Whether the dose is after 24 hours or eight hours, the co-patient has to bring back the patient based on that for the continuation of treatment,” said Amukpiu.
He said some patients received injections under trees during the day and that process is sometimes interrupted by rain.
Amukpiu did not reveal the number of beds in the hospital but one of the nurses said that the hospital has only 50 beds.
“The partners of health specifically CUAMM (Doctor’s with Africa), among others, has done great roles in supporting state hospitals with drugs as they budgeted for daily use which is mostly not enough for three sessions -- morning, noon and night hours. There is a need for more drugs to be delivered from the main store of the hospital or to let it stay open for 24 hours in case to complete all the needs, and more reinforcement from partners and the national government, particularly the ministry of health, to supports Lakes with quality medicine is needed,” he said.
He said that their store has almost run out of drugs due to the huge number of patients admitted.
Director-General of the Ministry of Health in Warrap State, Dr. Barach Malith Atem, said health facilities are recording hundreds of malaria cases daily amid a shortage of antimalarial drugs.
Warrap state recently recorded a high number of malaria cases between July and August, officials said
“We have received the (antimalaria) consignment early last month and we have prioritized the hard-to-reach areas to be supplied first but this rainy season is when malaria cases increase. We have communicated the issue to the National Malaria Control Unit and we expect drugs to be supplied next week,” said Malith Atem.
He said so far 1,000 antivenin vaccines have been distributed to four qualified health centers including, Kuajok hospital, Mother Teresa, Tonj hospital and Gogrial West PHCC.
Atem said anti-malarial drugs received in July have been exhausted but more are expect from Juba.
Daniel Apai, Director of Gogrial West County said the situation is alarming especially in primary health centers as facilities run out of drugs.
“You find one health facility like Gogrial PHCC is recording over 300 malaria cases per day and when you go to another health center you can see 100 to 200 cases of malaria recorded like in Panliet PHCU,” said Apai.
He said it is children under five years who are mostly affected.
“The convulsion among children under five is too high. Every child has a fever that you cannot choose which case to deal with first,” he said
Apai said drugs received were one-quarter of the supplies to the state from Juba and were distributed to 20 health facilities in Gogrial West County.
In addition, Tonj North County health department is also experiencing a surge in malaria and pneumonia cases.
Nyadit Adoor, a resident of Mayen Abun in Twic County of Warrap state said she is finding difficulty getting medicine at public pharmacies.
"The medicine is expensive in the private pharmacies and yet malaria cases are increasing,” said Adoor. “When I went to the hospital on Monday, I found the patients filled up in the hospital making it hard to get medicine.”
Achok Nhial Garang, a mother of four from Warrap state said women are struggling to treat their children suffering from malaria.
“Many children and women are suffering from malaria but when you go to hospital it is difficult to get drugs. If you are lucky. you can get medicine,” she said.
James Mayom from Lakes state said his two children have been admitted to the hospital but it is overwhelmed with about three to four children in one bed.
“For the last two days, I spent in the hospital, my children are sharing a bed with other children, as there are limited beds in the hospital,” said Mayom.
He urged the state government to expanded the hospital and bring in more beds
Mary Adholhok whose child is admitted to a hospital said the situation is really bad because some children have to sleep on the floor due to a lack of beds.
Adholhok admitted that the hospital is congested, leaving patients to sleep on the floor due to a chronic shortage of beds.
“The only advantage we have now is that state government has brought insecurity to a zero level -- no fear of unknown gunmen -- that is why the majority of parents accepted walking home and will come back early in the morning. But if it’s like those days it’s going to be bad for us here in Lakes state”
According to the South Sudan health cluster bulletin released in April, malaria was the top cause of morbidity, with 1,074,954 cases reported since week 1, 2021. It accounted for 49.4% of total outpatient department consultations. The malaria proportional morbidity is currently higher in comparison to the corresponding period of 2020 (31% versus 26%).
Many counties are facing malaria-endemic where cases are reported throughout the year. The trend shown a general upward movement in 2020 and 2021. In 2020, there were 3,442,086 malaria cases and 2,616 fatalities (case fatality rate of 0.08%) reported from all 80 counties.
The Health Ministry was unable to give current statistics of malaria cases. Anadolu Agency tried to get figures but the Department of Malaria Control said it is still gathering data from health care units across the country.