Disease scare in south Sudan, aid groups return

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Monday, January 22, 2007

Warab state in southern Sudan

The governor of the south Sudanese Warab state, Anthony Bol Madut told the Reuters news agency that at least a thousand people in the state have died of Meningitis and another unidentified disease. He said that the unknown disease had symptoms similar to Yellow fever but the patients died quickly. The governor appealed for medical assistance to diagnose and help control the outbreak.

The outbreak comes as hundreds of thousands of refugees return to southern Sudan after a peace deal ended conflict in the areas. The refugees are housed in crowded camps where the risk of infection is high.

Hotspots in south Sudan and Darfur are experiencing a lull in the fighting that has allowed normal life to return to these areas.

Meanwhile, the NGO SOS Children's Villages Sudan reports that despite the ceasefire among the warring factions in South Sudan and Darfur, people are still worried that conflict may erupt once again. SOS is also concerned about shortages in medicine and clean water in its facilities in these areas.

SOS emergency relief activities have restarted in Abu Shok refugee camp in Al-Fashir, Darfur, with most of the psychologists and social workers returning to work in the psycho-social centres, an SOS release reports. Work with the patients and beneficiaries of the three centres it maintains has started once again, the release adds.

The situation in SOS Children's Village Malakal is also stable, but cholera is still spreading among the residents of the area, especially children. SOS Children's Villages Sudan is providing emergency medical assistance in the form of medication for the children in the SOS Children's Village, as well as those being treated in the local children's hospital.

According to the SOS release, most international organisations and NGOs have returned to work in both Darfur and Malakal, especially the World Food Programme and other UN agencies. Several NGOs, however, have not resumed activities in the conflict areas. Airplanes are flying into Darfur and Malakal, but flights to Darfur are not as regular as before the conflict and there are no scheduled flights to the area of Malakal. Telephone communications are still unstable, and co-workers from SOS Children's Villages Sudan in Khartoum are relying on satellite telephones to communicate with Darfur and Malakal.

Mr. Ali Mahdi, director of SOS Children's Villages Sudan, said that despite the relative quiet in both Darfur and Malakal, people are still worried and tense regarding the situation. Co-workers at the SOS Emergency Relief Centres in Darfur and those in the SOS Children's Village Malakal are afraid of conflict breaking out again in the areas. Mr. Mahdi also said that the centres in Darfur and the SOS Children's Village in Malakal are both suffering from shortages in clean water and medication, some of which are being sent from Khartoum.

During a visit to Darfur on 10 January, Mr. Ali Mahdi visited the town of Nyala, the capital of South Darfur, where there is a similar refugee problem as that in Al-Fashir. SOS Children's Villages Sudan is now considering starting an emergency relief programme similar to the one in Abu Shok refugee camp in Al-Fashir.

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