JUBA/NAIROBI, 7 July 2015 – More than 700 cholera cases have been reported in Juba and Bor so far, resulting in 32 deaths – one in five of which are children under five, UNICEF said today.
Stressing the role of education in stemming the cholera outbreak in South Sudan, the UN children’s agency is working with children and teachers throughout the country to raise awareness on how to prevent the disease from spreading further.
“Cholera is a deadly disease that inordinately affects young children,” said the UNICEF Representative in South Sudan, Jonathan Veitch. “One of the most powerful ways we can respond to this outbreak is by equipping school-children with the information and tools they need to protect themselves and their families.”
In Central Equatoria, the location of the outbreak, students and teachers in schools near cholera hotspots have invited UNICEF to make school visits to raise awareness of the main risk factors. Some 1,340 students and 30 teachers have already benefited from life-saving information, with a goal of reaching 150 schools.
UNICEF and partners, including WHO and the Ministry of Health, are working throughout the country to put schools at the forefront of the response.
Teachers and students are being educated on hygiene promotion including the importance of handwashing with soap and safe handling of food.
In UNICEF Child Friendly Spaces, children are being trained and encouraged to raise awareness among their own families and communities – an important measure in South Sudan where 70 per cent of adults cannot read or write.
UNICEF and partners are also broadcasting cholera prevention messages and hosting talk shows on 19 radio stations and putting up posters in schools and public locations.
In addition, UNICEF is responding to the cholera outbreak by strengthening health facilities, distributing soap to communities, conducting vaccination campaigns in crowded Protection of Civilian sites and by raising awareness in vulnerable communities about prevention and early detection by training volunteers, teachers and religious leaders.
Veitch warned that if the current outbreak spreads beyond current locations, especially into the states affected by conflict, the lack of functioning health facilities could lead to a devastating loss of life. Currently 184 health facilities have been closed or destroyed in conflict-affected areas.
“It’s a race against time to prevent the spread of cholera up the river Nile, especially during rainy season. Our priority right now is reaching the most vulnerable children who urgently need clean water and vaccinations.”
UNICEF in South Sudan urgently needs US$ 4.6 million to fund an emergency cholera response for six months.