UN News Service (New York)
United Nations agencies have taken immediate action to help Sudan's Health Ministry to respond to a deadly outbreak of yellow fever in the South Kordofan region that has already claimed the lives of 121 people out of 448 infections so far. The agencies have launched an emergency appeal for $5.8 million.
Three weeks after the onset of the outbreak of the disease that was initially attributed to dengue, another mosquito-spread disease, the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the UN World Health Organization (WHO) have provided the Ministry and partners in South Kordofan with drugs, bed nets, vaccines, insecticides, spraying equipment and other supplies, as well as logistical support.
"With an almost one-third fatality rate and reported cases increasing every day, we may be dealing with a major epidemic," WHO Representative in Sudan Guido Sabatinelli said.
"But everyone is moving quickly to confine the epidemic. An immediate mass vaccination campaign is planned covering almost 2 million people in South Kordofan. Everyone in South Kordofan older than nine months old has to be vaccinated urgently," he added.
The last documented yellow fever outbreak in the Nuba Mountain region of central Sudan was 65 years ago, in 1940. At the time, an estimated 15,000 cases and 1,500 deaths were reported. Case fatality rates in a yellow fever epidemic can reach 50 per cent.
"In the current outbreak, yellow fever virus kills children under five years at an even higher rate. Almost 50 per cent of children who contract yellow fever might die," Representative-designate for UNICEF in Sudan Ted Chaiban said. "That is why UNICEF has already mobilized 240,000 doses of vaccine and is taking steps to secure the balance needed for total vaccination."
UNICEF provided 1.2 tons of essential supplies including drugs, and oral rehydration salts while WHO deployed special medical teams and is training health staff to detect and treat cases. Thousands more cases can be prevented through the spraying of mosquito-infested areas and removing stagnant water where mosquitoes breed.
Mr. Chaiban noted that parents should inquire about the availability of yellow fever vaccine and ensure all children over nine months old are vaccinated in the coming days.
Mali and Guinea are also experiencing yellow fever epidemics, which may put a strain on available resources.