Outbreaks of cholera and dengue fever have been reported in eastern Sudan, where thousands of people are sheltering as deadly fighting rages between the country’s army and a rival paramilitary force, the UN health agency said on Tuesday.
According to the World Health Organization, 162 suspected cholera cases have been admitted to hospitals in Qadarif province and other areas along the border with Ethiopia. Eighty cases have been confirmed and 10 people have died from cholera, a bacterial infection linked to contaminated food or water, the WHO said.
Sudan was plunged into chaos in mid-April when tensions between the army and a powerful paramilitary group erupted into open warfare in the capital Khartoum and other areas across the east African nation.
Escalating SUDAN CONFLICT DISPLACES OVER 2 MILLION PEOPLE, UN WARNS OF POTENTIAL ‘CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY’
The medical charity Doctors Without Borders has set up two centers to treat cholera patients along with two mobile teams in Qadarif. UN health and refugee agencies renovated the cholera isolation center at Qadarif Teaching Hospital, the province’s main medical facility.
Cholera outbreaks are not uncommon in impoverished Sudan. The disease left at least 700 dead and sickened an estimated 22,000 in less than two months in 2017, the last major outbreak in the country.
The WHO said more than 500 suspected dengue cases were reported across Sudan, most of them in urban centers in Qadarif. Dengue fever is caused by the dengue virus that is transmitted to humans through the bite of infected mosquitoes.
The number reported was “the tip of the iceberg” as the real number is much higher, given that most patients rely on home treatments and often do not go to hospitals, the WHO said.
SUDAN CONFLICT DISPLACES OVER 1.3 M, INCLUDING 320,000. IN THE NEIGHBORING COUNTRIES
Sudan’s doctors’ union says “hundreds” of dengue patients have died in the east of the country, describing the outbreak as a “health crisis”. He did not give a timeline for those deaths or elaborate further, but said most hospitals in Qadarif have been overwhelmed by patients.
The conflict in Sudan has turned Khartoum and other urban areas into battlefields, destroying urban infrastructure and an already strained health care system. Without the basics, many hospitals and medical facilities are closed.
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At least 5,000 people have been killed and more than 12,000 others injured, according to the United Nations, although the actual number is likely higher. The UN refugee agency said last week that more than 1,200 children under the age of 5 have died in nine camps in Sudan in the past five months due to a deadly combination of measles and malnutrition.
More than 5.2 million people have fled their homes, including more than 1 million who have crossed into Sudan’s neighboring countries. Half the country’s population – about 25 million people – are in need of humanitarian aid, including an estimated 6.3 million who are “one step away from starvation”, according to UN aid officials.