July 15, 14 (MABIOR) – There has been a sharp increase in the number of hepatitis E infections over the past three months in South Sudan’s Lakes state, with 55 cases reported in June, up from just two in April.
- Displaced people who fled from violence in Jonglei state capital Bor queue outside a clinic run by MSF in Lakes state’s Awerial town on 2 January 2014 (Photo: AP/Ben Curtis)
One displaced resident, who was recently diagnosed with the virus, blamed the national government for not declaring the region a disaster zone earlier.
Hepatitis E is a viral infection that affects the liver and is spread through contaminated food and water.
Displaced people in Awerial county’s Mingkaman have been hard-hit by the outbreak, although there some cases are now also being reported among members of the host community.
David Maker, a local administrator who works for the South Sudan Relief and Rehabilitation Commission (SSRRC), expressed fears the disease could spread throughout the entire community unless urgent measures are taken.
Speaking to Sudan Tribune by phone from Mingkaman on Tuesday, Maker, who was posted to the area by the Jonglei state government to facilitate relief service to IDPs, said he had also recently discovered that he had contracted the virus.
He said those infected at the IDP camp included pregnant women and children.
“The disease was noticed by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in April and now two people have died and about 52 others on the death row. It has no cure at all,” he said.
An MSF nurse told Sudan Tribune by phone from Mingkaman said the MSF health facility had managed to treat those in the early stages of the disease.
“Some people recovered and others didn’t. We can only try to help as many as possible to recover from acute liver failure caused by hepatitis E,” said the nurse.
Awerial county SSRRC coordinator John Parach Atho-lueth said that the county administration had informed the national ministry of health about the outbreak,
but nothing significant had been done.
He said women were among the worst affected by the outbreak of the virus.
Neighbouring Jonglei state was the scene of heavy fighting following the eruption of violence in the capital, Juba, in mid-December last year, with ten of thousands civilians fleeing for their lives.
Lakes state is currently hosting an estimated 100,000 displaced people from Jonglei, with the numbers now outnumbering the local community in Awerial county. Conditions at the makeshift IDP camps set up are said to be appalling.