South Sudan: WHO investigates a mysterious disease that has already claimed the lives of 97 people and affects mainly children

December 24, 2021

Doctors Without Borders workers prepare a mobile clinic in the city of Rubkona, in South Sudan (Photo: REUTERS)

The World Health Organization (WHO) sent a team of scientists to South Sudan to investigate a mysterious, unidentified disease that has so far killed at least 97 people.

According to what was reported by the chain BBC, WHO sent its delegation to the city of Fangak, Jonglei state, in the north of the country, one of the areas most affected by the recent floods.

“We decided to send a rapid response team to do a risk assessment and investigation; then they will be able to collect samples from the sick, but provisionally the figure we obtained was 89 deaths, “he told the BBC Sheila Baya, from the WHO.

In addition, he explained, the team of scientists had to reach Fangak by helicopter due to severe flooding.

Fangak County Commissioner, Biel Boutros Biel, declared this Thursday to the North American chain ABC News that the WHO delegation has already left the country, but did not communicate its findings to local officials.

Collins Boakye-Agyemang, a WHO spokesman for Africa, said the agency began investigating the outbreak in November, but did not provide further details about the rare disease that worries the population of South Sudan.

Northern South Sudan suffered the worst flooding in 60 years (Photo: REUTERS)
Northern South Sudan suffered the worst flooding in 60 years (Photo: REUTERS)

As a result of the strong floods that seriously affected that area, WHO tested patient samples for cholera. However, the samples were negative.

As investigations continue, Biel said that some local non-governmental organizations have delivered medical supplies to Fangak and they are in the process of establishing mobile clinics to help treat people.

Last month the international humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders called the floods a “perfect storm” for disease outbreaks.

“People do not have enough water or options to store it, and there is no garbage collection, while dead goats and dogs rot in drainage systems.”the statement said. “With conditions worsened by the influx of newcomers [a los campamentos], people are at increased risk of outbreaks and waterborne diseases, such as acute watery diarrhea, cholera and malaria ”.

“We are very concerned about malnutrition, as levels of severe acute malnutrition are double the WHO threshold, and the number of children admitted to our hospital with severe malnutrition has doubled since the beginning of the floods,” said MSF.

In the bordering state of Unity, meanwhile, severe flooding has increased the spread of diseases such as malaria and led to malnutrition in children due to food shortages, warned Lam Tungwar Kueigwong, the state’s minister of Lands, Housing and Public Services.

In addition, oil from the fields in the region has contaminated the water, causing the death of domestic animals.

Children between the ages of 1 and 14 are among the main victims of the strange disease investigated by the WHO (Photo: REUTERS)
Children between the ages of 1 and 14 are among the main victims of the strange disease investigated by the WHO (Photo: REUTERS)

So far flooding in northern South Sudan has prevented communities from accessing food supplies and other vital products. More than 700,000 people have been affected by the worst floods in the country in almost 60 years.

Nicholas Haysom, head of the UN peacekeeping mission in South Sudan, visited the city of Bentiu weeks ago, and described the situation as “dire.” He affirmed that the floodwaters do not subside and that hundreds of thousands of people are still displaced.

He also warned that the consequences could be disastrous in terms of food insecurity, lack of health care, education and risk of water-borne diseases.

So far 97 people have died from this mysterious disease. Biel explained that the last fatality was an elderly woman. According to a statement from the South Sudan Ministry of Health, Most of the deceased are the elderly and children between the ages of 1 and 14.

Symptoms of the mysterious illness include cough, diarrhea, fever, headache, chest pain, joint pain, loss of appetite, and body weakness., indicated the local authorities.

Keep reading:

Germany, France, the United Kingdom and a dozen countries condemned Russia’s support for the deployment of a mercenary group in Mali