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UN Agency Calls for Immediate Funds to Prevent Sharp Rise in Diseases

3/31/2006 4:33pm

UN News Service (New York)
March 31, 2006
Posted to the web March 31, 2006

Without an urgent infusion of funding, millions of people throughout Sudan will face a significant rise in cases of malaria, meningitis, diarrhoeal diseases, acute respiratory infections and measles, the United Nations health agency has warned.

"A significant increase in disease incidence and in preventable deaths is expected unless the shortfall of $24 million in funds for health is provided immediately," the representative of the World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General for Health Action in Crises, Dr. Ala Din Alwan, said.

"WHO and partners need sustained financial support in order to continue to reduce suffering and save lives in Sudan," Dr. Alwan added, noting that the current lack of funding coupled with growing security concerns in areas such as Darfur will reduce access to safe water and healthcare services.

Communicable diseases are the leading cause of death in Sudan. Over the last six months, Africa's largest country has experienced major outbreaks of epidemic diseases such as acute watery diarrhoea and cholera, dengue, yellow fever, monkey pox and meningitis, placing additional strains on already stretched health care services.

Through timely detection and rapid response to these outbreaks, WHO and partners succeeded in minimizing suffering and saving lives. "A shortfall or a delay in funding could compromise achievements of 2004 and 2005 and the health of millions of people could be at increased risk" WHO country representative Guido Sabatinelli said.

Funds are urgently required to ensure comprehensive coordination of medical interventions, timely response to disease outbreaks, improvement in sanitation, access to health care services, essential drugs and safe water, and increased preparedness, especially before the beginning of the rainy season, which takes place in June and July.

Currently, meningitis outbreaks are affecting 15 of the 25 states, with over 1,300 reported cases and 145 deaths. Further spread of the disease is likely due to the lack of access to essential drugs and vaccinations and the limited capacity of the existing surveillance system in high-risk areas.

The current outbreak of acute watery diarrhoea has affected nearly 10,000 people resulting in 248 deaths in seven of the 10 states in Southern Sudan. Cases of acute watery diarrhoea are being reported daily in new locations and situation requires continued monitoring and response, WHO said.

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