South Sudan and UN health partners have scaled up cholera prevention campaigns as the number of deaths from the water-borne diseases has risen in the past 20 months, the UN relief agency said on Wednesday.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), citing figures from the World Health Organization (WHO), said more than 20,000 cases of cholera, including 436 deaths, were reported during the longest and largest cholera outbreak that lasted nearly 20 months, from June 18 2016 to Feb. 7.

It said South Sudan health partners, in collaboration with the ministry of health, have initiated oral cholera vaccine (OCV) campaigns to mitigate the risk of cholera outbreaks during the current rainy season across the country.

“The campaigns are targeting over 854,000 people in South Sudan’s cholera endemic ‘hot spots’ in the first half of 2018 and will incorporate water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) interventions that are critical to achieve the global target of attaining a 90-percent reduction of cholera deaths by 2030,” OCHA said in its latest report.

Since 2013, South Sudan has faced several outbreaks of cholera affecting vulnerable populations in IDP camps, urban informal settlements, cattle camps as well as rural population, island dwellers and communities along River Nile.

Wamala Joseph, epidemiologist at WHO South Sudan, said these OCV campaigns are critical for preventing recurrent cholera outbreaks in endemic areas.

“They provide protection in the immediate term and serve as a bridge to rolling out long-term and sustainable WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) interventions in cholera hotspots,” Joseph said.

According to WHO, a total of 60,614 people were vaccinated in the first round of OCV campaigns in Malakal Protection of Civilians (PoC) and Wau IDP sites, and another 173,480 people vaccinated in the second round of OCV campaigns in Aburoc and Wau IDP sites, Budi County, Malakal town and Malakal PoC site.

The variations in coverage, according to WHO are attributable in part to unpredictable population movements either due to conflict-related displacements or seasonal movement in search of water, pasture and food.

In addition, the coverage is also affected by challenges related to inadequate social mobilization and a high dropout rate for the second dose of oral cholera vaccine, especially when the campaign is conducted in the absence of an ongoing outbreak, it said. Enditem


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