South Sudan

Ministry of Health declares end of cholera outbreak in South Sudan

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Cholera treatment and prevention in the Protection of Civilians sites in Juba. 25 June 2015 © UNMISS

3 November 2015 - The Government of South Sudan announced today that the cholera outbreak which hit the country five months ago has been controlled.

“The declaration of the end of the outbreak comes after a period of 10 days with no reported laboratory confirmed cholera cases countrywide,” said a statement issued by the Ministry of Health.

The government officially declared the outbreak on 23 June, following a laboratory confirmation of the first cholera case on 1 June in an UNMISS protection of civilians (PoC) site in Juba.

“After further investigations, initial cases were later traced back to 18 May 2015 in the same area,” the statement recalled, adding that during the outbreak, a total of 1,818 cases, including 47 deaths, were reported from Central Equatoria and Jonglei states.

The statement said a National Cholera Task Force, under the joint guidance of the Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization (WHO), was set up following the outbreak to provide technical leadership and coordinate different partners.

Response operations included surveillance, laboratory support, case management; water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), social mobilization and logistics.

To prevent the continued spread of the disease in high risk areas, partners conducted cholera vaccination campaigns in the Unity State capital Bentiu, the Upper Nile State capital Malakal, UNMISS PoC sites and other cholera hot spot areas in Juba, reaching over 290,000 people.

According to the statement, an investigation into the outbreak led by the health ministry with support from WHO revealed several risk factors which may have fueled transmission.

These included residing in crowded IDP camps with poor sanitation and hygiene, using untreated water from tankers and other unsafe sources, lack of household chlorination of drinking water, eating unhygienic prepared food from unregulated roadside food vendors or makeshift markets and open defecation.

In collaboration with humanitarian and developmental partners as well as corporate bodies, the government had put in place measures to avert any more cholera outbreaks, the statement said.

These include chlorinating water from all tankers before distribution, quality monitoring of water in different areas of Juba to monitor the safety of water being used by the population, as well as regulating and strengthening certification of food vendors by the Juba City Council.

The government urged the public to take steps to prevent cholera and other diarrhoeal diseases. It gave examples such as seeking immediate medical attention for symptoms, observing personal and community hygiene, boiling or treating drinking water as well as cooking food thoroughly and eating it while it is still hot.

“Vigilance should be maintained, given the limited essential infrastructure for enabling efficient sanitation, safe water supply and effective waste disposal, and the increased incidence of cholera in 2014 and 2015,” the press release said.