Concerns over diseases following the rains and floods
Following the unprecedented rains and floods that wreaked havoc and left 875,000 people affected across Sudan, there are concerns of more than 4.5 million people at risk of vector-borne disease, according to health sector partners in Sudan.
As a result of the increase of breeding sites (stagnant water pools) and population displacements, there is a significant risk of a high incidence of vector diseases, the health sector reported earlier this month.
Viral haemorrhagic fever
The number of suspected viral haemorrhagic fever (VHF) cases is increasing and as of 18 October stands at 2,226, with 99 per cent of cases reported in Northern State. According to the Federal Ministry of Health (FMoH), 56 people have died from VHF.
VHF includes a wide range of viral infections, namely Ebola and Marburg haemorrhagic fevers, Crimean–Congo haemorrhagic fever (CCHF), Rift Valley fever (RVF), Lassa fever, Hantavirus diseases, dengue and yellow fever, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Viruses that cause haemorrhagic fevers are transmitted by mosquitoes (dengue, yellow fever, RVF), ticks (CCHF), rodents (Hantavirus, Lassa) or bats (Ebola, Marburg).
Chikungunya outbreak in West Darfur
Meanwhile, 248 people in West Darfur were diagnosed with chikungunya, with one related death reported. With the rainy season, there is usually a spike in vector-borne diseases in Sudan as stagnant water provides a breeding ground for mosquitoes, which are the main vectors of chikungunya, malaria and other diseases.
During the last outbreak of chikungunya, more than 300 cases were reported between July 2019 and February 2020. In 2018, however, over 19,000 cases of chikungunya were reported across the country.
Chikungunya is a viral disease transmitted to humans by infected mosquitoes. Symptoms of chikungunya are fever and severe joint pain, as well as muscle pain, joint swelling, headache, nausea, fatigue and rash. Joint pain associated with chikungunya is often debilitating and can vary in duration. There is currently no vaccine or specific drug for the virus and treatment focuses on relieving the disease symptoms, according to the WHO. For more on chikungunya, please go here.
Over 1.1 million malaria cases
By the end of September 2020, over 1.1 million malaria cases were reported across Sudan and reached epidemic levels in 15 out of 18 states. In 2018, malaria was the top killer accounting for about 9 poer cent of deaths in hospitals across Sudan, according to the FMoH’s Annual Health Statistics Report 2018. Malaria also accounted for the main reason of admission to hospitals – 12 per cent of all admissions. According to the malaria cases records from FMoH, the number of malaria cases tend to increase with the start of the rainy season and floods, peaking towards the later part of the flooding season (August-September). Stagnant water pools following rains and flooding result in the propagation of mosquitoes – the vectors of malaria and other diseases.
WHO has procured and is organizing the distribution of 266 Inter-agency Emergency Health Kits (IEHKs) to support malaria treatment and other health needs. These kits can serve up to 2.7 million people for three months. Also, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is preparing to distribute 18 IEHKs and 7 acute watery diarrhoea (AWD) kits. However, there are still significant shortages in malaria supplies to address the current endemic levels, with FMoH reporting difficulties in distributing medical supplies as some areas are inaccessible due to the recent flooding.
Lack of funding
Before COVID-19 the health system in Sudan had been weakened due to years of low funding, as well as lack of personnel and essential medicines. Against this backdrop, the health sector component of the Sudan 2020 Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) is still underfunded, with only 19 per cent of the HRP requirements received and only 35 per cent of the COVID-19 appeal funded, according to the Financial Tracking Service. As a result, several key activities have been scaled back.
“There is an urgent need to raise an estimated US$25 million to respond to the urgent health needs of those affected by seasonal floods,” Kais Aldairi, Sudan Health Cluster Coordinator, said. “These funds will allow Sudan to procure essential medicines and supplies to support preventative measures for vaccine-preventable, vector and water-borne diseases.”
For more on the health sector’s response to multiple emergencies please see it here.