When Margaret Dudu, a 30-year old mother of two, visited her mother in Gumbo on the outskirts of Juba, she intended to stay for a few days then return home and resume her life.
However, her stay was prolonged as she contracted cholera and had to be hospitalized. “I don’t know what day it was, but I know with certainly that at exactly 2 pm I got diarrhoea and started vomiting,” she said, adding that she did not know she had cholera. Her family rushed her to Juba Teaching Hospital, where she was immediately admitted at the Cholera Treatment Centre (CTC) run by humanitarian partners and was treated over a period of eight days.
South Sudan experienced a cholera outbreak that lasted from May to November 2014, during which 6421 cholera cases including 167 deaths from 16 counties were reported. Although Margaret, then seven months pregnant, lost her baby during the bout of cholera, she is grateful to be alive and appreciates efforts by partners in containing the outbreak.
“I am grateful to health workers for helping me. Now I am not worried about getting the disease again because apart from treating me, they also educated me on how to prevent it,” she said. On leaving the hospital, Margaret received chlorine water treatment tablets and information about food handling and other hygienic practices.
Margaret is among millions of people who have benefited from humanitarian assistance in South Sudan. Humanitarian partners have been responding to the crisis affecting the country since December 2013 when conflict erupted. The consequences of the conflict are grave. At least 2 million people have fled their homes, of whom 1.5 million are internally displaced, while an estimated 500 000 have sought refuge in neighbouring countries. About 2.5 million people are expected to be food insecure from January to March 2015, while roughly 235 000 children under five years of age remain at risk of severe acute malnutrition (SAM).
In 2014, health partners through the health cluster led by WHO, mounted a substantial humanitarian operation that included procurement and strategic prepositioning of essential medicines and life-saving drugs. As a result, 36 health cluster partners received emergency supplies from WHO and reached about 959 000 people.
WHO also supported emergency primary health care services in Protection of Civilians (PoC) sites and other internally displaced persons (IDPs) camps as provider of last resort. Further, WHO supported the epidemic preparedness and response through the oral cholera vaccination campaign in major IDP sites, reaching 257 000 people, in addition to responding to the cholera, hepatitis E virus, measles, Kala-azar and malaria outbreaks.
“Humanitarian interventions and achievements made last year were possible because of funding from various donors, to whom WHO is extremely grateful,” says Dr Tarande Manzila, WHO Representative in South Sudan, adding that the Health Cluster’s request of US$ 77 million in South Sudan’s 2014 Crisis Response Plan (CRP) was 99% funded at US$ 76 300 431 by the end of the year. However, there are still huge gaps and needs still remain. According to the 2015 Strategic Response Plan (SRP), an estimated 6.4 million people need various forms of humanitarian assistance. Health partners aim to assist 3.4 million of these people in 2015.
Priority health needs for 2015 include the expansion of primary health care services beyond the PoC areas; revival and expansion of secondary health services, especially surgical, reproductive health and mental health care in the conflict affected areas; control and prevention of communicable diseases, especially strengthening early warning (EWARN) and response capacity; prepositioning of emergency drugs in the conflict affected states; and monitoring and supervision of health services delivery.
However, these services are not possible without funding, which is urgently needed to sustain the gains made so far. The health cluster requires US$ 90 million out of South Sudan’s $1.81 billion request in the 2015 Strategic Response Plan . To date, the cluster has received US$ 7 million, representing a meager 8% of the total request, while leaving a huge gap of 92%.
“Without funding, millions of IDPs will not have access to life saving health services, there will be stock outs of lifesaving drugs and pipeline breaks, while the risk of major communicable disease epidemics will remain high,” Dr Manzila warns.
Consequently, it will be difficult for health partners to save the lives of people like Margaret and respond to the myriad of health challenges facing South Sudan. For this reason, health partners are appealing for funds to meet priority needs in 2015.
For additional information, please contact:
Matilda Moyo | Communications Consultant | WHO Surge Team | Juba, South Sudan| Mobile: +211 955 036 439 | Email: firstname.lastname@example.org | Skype: matilda.moyo