South Sudan on cholera alert as donors meet to pledge funds

East Africa, Emergencies, General, Humanitarian Advocacy, Media Releases, News article written on the 20 May 2014

The people of South Sudan, already exposed to conflict and hunger, face a new threat, with the outbreak of cholera focussing the urgent need for international assistance ahead of today’s donor pledging conference in Oslo.

The outbreak of the highly contagious disease in Juba this week demonstrates the importance of a rapid and adequate response to the increasingly dire humanitarian crisis unfolding in the world’s newest nation, where 4 million people are expected to go hungry by December.

Oxfam Australia International Programs Director Alexia Huxley said the confirmation of 138 cholera cases in Juba was a stark reminder of the multitude of risks the citizens of the country had been forced to endure since conflict broke out in December 2013.

“There is no question – the international community must act to prevent a rapidly escalating food crisis – and now potentially a public health emergency – in South Sudan,” Ms Huxley said.

Cholera is spread through contaminated water, human interaction and unclean food, so the often overcrowded urban, camp and settlement areas are most at risk. If untreated, the highly contagious disease can have up to a 50 percent fatality rate, but if treated, this is dramatically reduced to less than 1 percent. Symptoms include extreme diarrhoea and vomiting, with the disease nicknamed “blue death” because people’s skin can turn bluish-gray from fluid loss. Untreated sufferers expel up to 10-20 litres of diarrhoea a day.

Prevention and treatment measures for Cholera are simple, but with aid budgets for South Sudan already desperately underfunded, lives stand to be lost because responders lack the funds they need to react rapidly to this outbreak.

“The people of South Sudan have already suffered too much – so many lives have been lost to conflict and so many more stand to be lost due to hunger,” Ms Huxley said.

“We can’t morally sit by and watch a public health crisis take additional lives in South Sudan. The humanitarian responders stand ready to do what is needed to avert a hunger and disease catastrophe in South Sudan. But we need donors to stand behind us and give vital funding to enable us to carry out our work.”

The UN has just revised its appeal for South Sudan, which now stands at $AUS1.9 billion until December 2014. Currently, only $AUS553 million has been received. The UN has projected that by December, 4 million people will go hungry, 7 million will be in need of humanitarian assistance.

Australia has so far contributed $AUS7.4 million to the UN Crisis response plan, however with increasing humanitarian needs in the country and the recent revision of funding requirements, it is critical the Australia follow up action at Oslo with further urgent funding commitments this year.

Oxfam has so far helped over 180,000 people in South Sudan and 63,000 in Uganda, working to prevent outbreaks of communicable diseases by providing access to clean water and sanitation, and providing household items such as mosquito nets, blankets, cook stoves and charcoal for cooking.

In response to the cholera outbreak in Juba, Oxfam is building latrines (only 15 percent of people in South Sudan have access to latrines), providing buckets, treating water, mobilising communities to collect garbage and communicating good hygiene practices to these communities to reduce the spread of the disease. With a quick response, it is hoped that the outbreak can be contained.

For more information or to arrange an interview contact Angus Hohenboken, Media Coordinator International Programs and Emergencies on 0428367318, or