NAIROBI, Feb. 17 (Xinhuanet) -- At least 49 people have died in a suspected cholera outbreak in southern Sudan that has taken nearly 1,400 ill, the United Nations announced on Friday.
The United Nations children's fund UNICEF said that the deaths and illnesses with cholera-like symptoms were first reported in town of Yei in late January and have spread to the southern Sudanese capital of Juba.
"The outbreak of acute diarrhea and cholera in Juba continues to be alarming, with 21 deaths reported so far. The situation in Yei, where the outbreak began in late January, is relatively stable, but the total number of reported deaths there and in surrounding villages is 28 from over 1,400 cases," said UNICEF in a statement.
It said only one case of cholera has so far been confirmed but health officials have warned of catastrophe if the disease hits Juba, a city of about 250,000 people, most of whom depend on the polluted and untreated waters of the Nile.
The UN agency is supplying hospitals in Juba and Yei with medical supplies including IV fluid, soap as well as jerry cans, buckets, plastic sheeting, gloves and other equipment.
The disease ripped rapidly through the town of Yei, leaving hundreds of people needing medical attention -- about half of themchildren.
"UNICEF moved swiftly to draw on its stores in Juba, the capital of southern Sudan, and a truck carrying life-saving supplies arrived in Yei on February 4 to replenish the hospital inYei which had run out of Oral Rehydration Salts (ORS) and IV fluids," it said.
The UN agency said it was mobilizing medical and water and sanitation stocks as part of a coordinated response including UN agencies and local and international NGOs, and led by the government of southern Sudan's health authorities.
A broad effort was also being mounted by UN agencies in Yei to enhance access to clean water and sanitation as well as launch public awareness campaigns about the importance of good hygiene and clean water which include house-to-house visits, it said.
The population of southern Sudan's towns is swelling due to thereturn of displaced people and refugees, and increased economic activity