Water-related illnesses, emergency-level malnutrition rates and a suspected outbreak of Hepatitis E threaten refugee communities in Maban County, Upper Nile State, South Sudan which currently hosts over 110,000 refugees in camps. Many of the refugees are Sudanese women and children fleeing conflict and hunger in neighbouring Blue Nile State of Sudan.
Hepatitis E Virus (HEV) causes an infection of the liver and can be transmitted by consuming water and food contaminated with feces – it generally spreads in places with poor hygiene. In response to more than 133 confirmed cases of HEV, 16 recorded deaths in camps throughout Maban and an alarming increase in acute jaundice syndrome, International Medical Corps has developed a HEV active surveillance, treatment, management and referral protocol which is integrated into our existing primary health care services in Gendrassa camp. We are also establishing a 24-hour, 10-bed isolation unit to manage hemorrhagic jaundice cases.
Social mobilisation, community outreach and active surveillance of acute jaundice cases are ongoing. As part of efforts to raise awareness, International Medical Corps conducted a series of community leader (sheikh) trainings focused on HEV signs and symptoms, measures to prevent HEV and the importance of timely referral particularly for pregnant women. International Medical Corps trained 25 community health and hygiene volunteers on health education, hygiene promotion and acute jaundice active case finding.
Incessant rains in recent months have flooded the Jamam refugee camp, prompting the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to establish Gendrassa camp in Maban County in July 2012, where more than 13,000 now reside. Discussions are underway to decide whether to fully evacuate the remaining estimated 20,000 refugees in Jamam to Gendrassa, where International Medical Corps is providing health and malnutrition screenings; health, hygiene and nutrition education; immunizations; de-worming; and Vitamin A supplementation and constructing latrines. To date, International Medical Corps has provided over 15,000 patient consultations. Leading ailments among the population are acute respiratory infections and malaria.
In addition to screening children under five and pregnant and lactating women for malnutrition, International Medical Corps is also implementing supplementary feeding programmes to prevent malnutrition among the refugee population. Based on the nutrition screenings conducted, 505 children under five and 550 pregnant and lactating women were admitted into our Targeted Supplementary Feeding Programme and 2,938 children under three have been admitted into our Blanket Supplementary Feeding Programme.
International Medical Corps is also actively engaging local leaders and sheikhs to educate the refugee population on proper health, hygiene and nutrition practices. In addition, International Medical Corps has constructed 20 latrines with an additional 40 under construction. In anticipation of a cholera outbreak, International Medical Corps has prepositioned cholera kits in Maban and is preparing a cholera treatment unit.