Melissa Fleming, UNHCR:
Health Situation In South Sudan Refugee Camps Alarming
August 6, 2012
The United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR reports aid agencies are racing
to reverse the alarming health situation in South Sudan camps. The UNHCR
says aid workers are intensifying efforts to bring down the high rates
of malnutrition, disease and death among Sudanese refugees in two camps
in Unity State and Upper Nile State.
The U.N. refugee agency reports South Sudan is now hosting 170,000
Sudanese refugees. And, it says more are arriving from South Kordofan
and Blue Nile every day seeking refuge in, what it calls, some of the
most inhospitable places imaginable.
Many of the 60,000 refugees in Yida camp in Unity state are suffering
from a variety of illnesses. Children make up more than a quarter of
Health workers in the camp first saw a significant hike in death rates
among refugee children in late June and early July. The group, Doctors
Without Borders reports an average of five children are dying every day,
mostly from diarrhea and infections.
UNHCR spokeswoman, Melissa Fleming, says aid agencies are providing
emergency treatment and have been working to mitigate the risk of
water-borne and hygiene-related diseases. As a consequence, she says
mortality and morbidity rates have stabilized and even decreased in the
last three weeks.
But, she says the situation remains extremely worrying.
"This is a race against time basically," said Fleming. "People are
coming across in absolutely horrendous, fragile conditions. They are
extremely vulnerable and when the conditions are not fantastic when they
cross the border in a place where there is huge flooding and where the
food can only be airlifted in. It is probably one of the most
challenging operations for humanitarian aid workers including UNHCR that
we have experienced."
Potable water in Yida camp is in short supply. The UNHCR so far has dug
two out of the six additional boreholes that will double the supply of
drinkable water in the camp.
Fleming says the agency together with the NGO Solidarite is conducting a
40-day bucket cleaning and chlorination campaign at water points. She
says drainage systems are being improved to reduce the risk of
contamination and water-diseases from standing water.
She says rains have flooded nearby roads, turning Yida into a virtual
island. Thus, airlifts are the only way to get life-saving aid into the
camp. She says the UNHCR plans to airlift an additional 8,500 plastic
sheets and 15,000 mosquito nets for new arrivals.
she says the situation in Batil camp in Upper Nile state is also of
great concern. She says Sudanese refugees fleeing war and hunger are
coming across into South Sudan in a fragile condition.
"This is really pointing to a very dangerous and horrifying situation
across the border where reports of shelling continue, where people are
not being able to access food and where they are having to trek for days
on end to reach safety across the border," she said.
Batil camp houses 35,000 refugees. The U.N. refugee agency reports one
in three children there is believed to be malnourished. It says the
refugees are suffering from watery diarrhea, respiratory tract
infections and malaria.
Aid agencies are setting up therapeutic feeding programs to help
children recover from moderate acute to severe acute malnutrition.
Health agencies have set up surveillance centers to monitor for possible
outbreaks of diarrheal and other diseases.