Sudan

Meningitis claims 50 victims in South Sudan

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By Alfred Taban

KHARTOUM, March 23 (Reuters) - Meningitis has killed 50 people, mainly children and old people, in Juba, southern Sudan's main town, in the last two weeks, a newspaper reported on Thursday.

The privately owned Alwan daily said Juba, which has a population of a quarter of a million people, is short of drugs to combat the epidemic.

Late last month, 35 people were reported to have died of meningitis in Juba. Ahmed al-Tigani, the health ministry's epidemiology director, said then he feared the meningitis outbreak might spread elsewhere in the south, ravaged by civil war between government troops and autonomy-seeking rebels.

Meningitis thrives in hot weather and day temperatures in Juba, some 1,200 km (750 miles) south of Khartoum, have risen to about 42 degrees Celsius (108 Fahrenheit).

Meningitis killed nearly 1,700 people in Sudan last year, according to U.N. figures.

The biggest health hazard in Sudan is still malaria, however, accounting for over 10 percent of all hospital deaths.

"Malaria is the number one health problem in the country," said Health Minister Abul Gasim Mohamed Ibrahim, announcing a new campaign to combat the disease.

Al-Ayam newspaper said he had ordered an operations room to be set up and restructuring of agencies involved in the effort.

Hospital officials say 30 percent of their patients are admitted for malaria treatment.

Health authorities attribute the prevalence of malaria to flooding, stagnant water, broken water pipes and poor hygiene. They say the high death rate is due to a lack of drugs, as well as resistance to chloroquine, the main anti-malaria drug.

Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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