June 20, 2014 (JUBA) – Preventable diseases and severe acute malnutrition are causing alarming death numbers among an estimated 45,000 people taking refuge at the United Nations base in Unity state capital, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) said Friday.
- An MSF nurse treats a baby with dehydration in Jonglei state (MSF/Stephen Torfinn)
The situation, the medical charity warned in a statement, could worsen unless there was rapid increase in water supplies, hygiene promotion and latrine construction.
According to MSF, the number of people seeking protection at the base increased nearly tenfold in the last two months due to relentless violence in Unity State, while recent flooding has left the area without enough clean water or sanitation facilities.
Medical reports from the camp also show that at least three children under 5 years were dying per day within Bentiu’s protection of civilians sites. Most of the deaths are reportedly due to acute diarrhoea, pneumonia and malnutrition linked to the existing harsh conditions.
“People came here for safety but they are facing life-threatening conditions inside the camps,” said Nora Echaibi, medical team leader of an MSF hospital on site.
“It is rapidly becoming catastrophic”, she added.
Recent heavy rains exacerbated an already grim situation, flooding latrines and making it impossible for water trucks to use the roads for deliveries. Medical facilities and other areas where aid organizations provide services have been flooded.
As of mid-June, wells and tanker trucks are supplying only 4.4 litres of clean water per person per day, which is far below the international standard of 15 litres and residents are forced to drink from puddles that are often contaminated with human waste.
The area reportedly has only one working latrine serving an average of 241 people daily.
Displaced people continue to arrive every day from surrounding regions in very bad conditions after walking long distances or surviving for a long time in the bush without food and assistance.
Ongoing hostilities make it impossible to use the roads safely, even to collect supplies such as sand, which is essential to protect areas from flooding. Due to the flooding of the roads, all materials have to be transported by plane at high cost.
MSF teams are very worried about the prospects of further disease outbreaks, such as cholera, hepatitis and malaria.
“It is a very challenging environment, but more aid is needed to avert a catastrophe. MSF is currently increasing its hospital’s capacities in the camp and sending additional emergency medical teams to try to tackle the situation,” said Raphael Gorgeu, MSF country director for South Sudan.
“We call on aid organizations to do everything they can to improve conditions here, especially water and sanitation. We also call on armed groups to allow aid to travel freely on the roads,” he added.