UNHCR raises alarm over health situations of Sudanese refugees

Saturday, August 25, 2012
Sudanese refugees undergo medical
screening at a settlement in
Upper Nile state
[PHOTO: ©UNHCR/P. Rulashe] 
Geneva: The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) voiced alarm about the health situation of more than 100,000 refugees spread out across two states in South Sudan.   

Paul Spiegel, UNHCR Chief Medical Officer, told a press conference in Geneva that young children are particularly at risk, with under-five mortality rates having surpassed the emergency threshold.

In Upper Nile, nearly half the refugees are under the age of 11.  In Yusuf Batil, a camp hosting 34,000 Sudanese from Blue Nile state, 15 per cent of children under five – nearly 1,600 children – are severely malnourished. They are now being treated under a special programme to restore them to health, Spiegel said.  

Current rain and cold have led to an increase in the number of refugees suffering from respiratory tract infections, diarrhoea and malaria.

UNHCR is supplying the refugees with food, shelter and other essential items but difficult access to camps is proving to be an increasing obstacle.

Siegel said "these camps are in very remote locations" where there were no pre-existing services. He added that "both the local populations, who also have very difficult living conditions and for the refugees that came, the roads are almost non-existent and so every thing has to come in by air."

Earlier this month, UNHCR and its partners launched an extensive health and hygiene outreach programme, with a special emphasis on good basic hygiene.   

The UNHCR official said hygiene and sanitation services are a struggle because of the large numbers of people in the camps.

He said it was "easier to set up a health centre than ensure, to have sufficient outreach to all the population, inform where the health centres are."

All agencies have struggled to maintain adequate hygiene and sanitation, with the number of refugees having increased dramatically from 99,000 in April to the current number of almost 170,000. They have arrived from Sudan's South Kordofan and Blue Nile states after fleeing conflict and food shortages.    
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