Thousands of Children’s Lives at Risk as Deadly Cholera Outbreak Spreads

Thousands of Children’s Lives at Risk as Deadly Cholera Outbreak Spreads

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Girls receiving treatment for cholera at Hiyala health centre in South Sudan. Photo by Jonathan Hyams/Save the Children.
Girls receiving treatment for cholera at Hiyala health centre in South Sudan. Photo by Jonathan Hyams/Save the Children.

WASHINGTON, D.C. (July 11, 2014) — Cholera is likely to put thousands more lives at risk just as South Sudan is facing one of the worst humanitarian crises on the continent.

The latest cholera outbreak in Torit County is spreading rapidly and illustrates how the highly infectious disease is spreading throughout the country.

This is only the latest outbreak of a disease that has already contaminated over 2,600 people and killed more than 60 since the first cases were reported in Juba on May 15. Cholera causes severe vomiting and diarrhoea among children and adults, which in turn leads to severe dehydration and, if treatment is not provided rapidly, to patients’ death. The disease has now spread to many areas in the country, with outbreaks or alerts reported in nine out of ten states.

Children, because of their age and developmental stage, are particularly susceptible to dying from the disease. South Sudanese children are even more vulnerable: seven months of violence has forced 1.5 million people from their homes and brought the world’s youngest nation – which turned three on 9 July – to the brink of famine.

Pete Walsh, Save the Children’s Country Director in South Sudan, said: “Our teams on the ground are seeing new cases of cholera every day. Desperate parents are coming to clinics with children who are already considerably weakened by the disease. This spread is extremely concerning, especially coming on top of a growing hunger crisis and as hundreds of thousands of people are struggling to survive in overcrowded, unsanitary camps. The health service is already overstretched and there are widespread shortages of lifesaving supplies.”

Richard*, 5, being treated for cholera just after he arrived with his mother, Asunda*, at the Save the Children supported health clinic in Hiyala, South Sudan. Photo by Jonathan Hyams/Save the Children
Richard*, 5, being treated for cholera just after he arrived with his mother, Asunda*, at the Save the Children supported health clinic in Hiyala, South Sudan. Photo by Jonathan Hyams/Save the Children.

“With heavier rains due in the coming weeks and months, the situation could still get a lot worse. Stagnant floodwater provides the perfect conditions for the rapid spread of cholera and roads are turning to mud, hindering efforts to get support and life-saving drugs to those that desperately need them,” Walsh added.

Save the Children says that without further, concerted action and greater supplies of medicines, it is inevitable that more children will die from the deadly but treatable disease.

Save the Children has been responding to the growing crisis in South Sudan since the outbreak of fighting in December 2013. The aid agency is working with the Ministry of Health and other partners to provide lifesaving medicines, staff and materials and making sure communities are educated on how to reduce the spread of cholera. To donate to Save the Children's response, or for more information go to www.savethechildren.org/south-sudan-donate

Save the Children gives children in the United States and around the world a healthy start, the opportunity to learn and protection from harm. We invest in childhood-- every day, in times of crisis and for our future. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

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