UN relief chief heads to South Sudan to bolster humanitarian response as country’s challenges mount

WHO is supporting oral cholera vaccination campaigns in South Sudan as part of the efforts to prevent a potentially large-scale outbreak. Photo: WHO/M. Moyo

WHO is supporting oral cholera vaccination campaigns in South Sudan as part of the efforts to prevent a potentially large-scale outbreak. Photo: WHO/M. Moyo

South Sudan, 21 July 2015 – The top United Nations humanitarian official is heading to South Sudan where a new cholera outbreak has claimed nearly 40 lives, more than 2.2 million people have been uprooted from their homes by conflict and nearly 8 million others are expected to face food shortages during the rainy reason.

Over 1,210 cholera cases, including 39 deaths, have been reported in Juba and Bor counties, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Most of the cases, and 38 of the deaths, were reported in Juba County.

“In response to the outbreak, health partners have set up cholera treatment centres and oral rehydration point in both counties, and are conducting cholera prevention activities, including hygiene promotion and improvement of access to safe drinking water,” the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported today.

OCHA added that some 99,000 people have received cholera vaccines in two counties, Juba and Bentiu.

The UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, Stephen O’Brien, who is also the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, is scheduled to visit Juba and Unity state in South Sudan beginning Wednesday on a four-day visit to see first-hand the humanitarian consequences of the conflict, and efforts by aid organizations to respond to escalating needs, his office announced today.

More than 2.2 million people have been uprooted from their homes by the conflict, including 1.6 million people who have been internally displaced and over 600,000 who have fled to Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda as refugees, according to OCHA.

“During his visit Mr. O’Brien is expected to meet communities affected by the violence, senior Government officials, humanitarian partners and the diplomatic community, to discuss the crisis and ways of strengthening the humanitarian operation,” his office said.

OCHA also reported an “alarming” food security situation with nearly 70 percent of the country’s population – 7.9 million out of 11.6 million people – expected to face food insecurity this rainy season.

“The lives of more than a quarter of a million children are at risk from rapidly worsening nutrition,” it said. “In half the states, one in three children suffers from acute malnutrition.