Conditions in South Sudan's Unity State Expected to Deteriorate with Coming Rainy Season

FAIRFIELD, Conn. (April 19, 2017) — As it delivers lifesaving services and vaccinations to thousands of the most hard-to-reach people in famine hit South Sudan’s Unity state, Save the Children’s Emergency Health Unit (EHU) is warning that conditions will deteriorate further with the coming rainy season.

The EHU was deployed to the remote town of Mayendit as part of a UN-coordinated rapid response, with Save the Children medical workers joining other agencies to address immediate life-threatening challenges in a part of the country that hasn’t seen proper medical care for months.

The EHU’s Dr. Rukengeza Makanda said the only healthcare facility in the town was burned down during fighting in February, and that the community had fled into nearby swamps causing serious health conditions to spread.

"About 30 percent of the patients we saw on a single day had urinary tract infections caused by a tropical parasite that attacks the kidney and bladder," he said.

"The lack of latrines, access to clean water and proper hygiene practices has seen this waterborne disease spread quickly through the population. If left untreated, it can lead to kidney failure and even tumors – for the most vulnerable it can be fatal.

"I fear this community will see even more serious outbreaks of this and other water borne diseases during the upcoming rainy season."

Working alongside health workers recruited from the community, nurse Nora Hellman said the team also treated cases of malaria, pneumonia and severe acute malnutrition – all exacerbated by the living conditions in the swamp.

She said they also treated two young men for gunshot wounds sustained in a fight over cattle – they had walked 36 hours to reach help – and assisted two women who were giving birth.

"The local members we worked with showed great care and concern for their community, and were relieved to see treatment delivered after such a long absence," Hellman said.

"One traditional midwife told me she loves her job but recently it’s been very difficult for her, as she’s seen more and more mothers and babies die in childbirth. She told me last month a mother and twin newborns died. There’s no road to transport people to hospital, no doctor and no availability of C-sections."

Save the Children’s Country Director in South Sudan, Pete Walsh, who visited Mayendit, said it was a prime example of a manmade disaster.

"It was once known as the ‘safe haven’ of Unity state, but in February services including a hospital for severely malnourished children, as well as homes and aid agencies’ compounds were looted and destroyed."

Walsh said he also heard of atrocities, such as rape, committed against the population.

He added that the biggest challenge for aid agencies operating in the area now is access, which is caused by the ongoing conflict, and will be further limited by the rainy season.

"Without humanitarian assistance, the most vulnerable may not survive. This is just one example of many right across South Sudan. Save the Children is calling for all parties to support unimpeded, unfettered access to enable humanitarians to save the lives of the most vulnerable. But ultimately, what South Sudan needs is peace – and quickly."

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