Juba, 5 July 2012 – Preliminary studies reveal mortality rates are nearly double the emergency threshold in a refugee camp in South Sudan’s Upper Nile state, currently home to a quarter of roughly 120,000 refugees who have fled Sudan’s Blue Nile state since late last year, the international medical humanitarian organisation Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) warned today.
The death rates were derived from rapid epidemiological surveys carried out in the Jamam refugee camp in
“These people have fled terrible violence in
Having gone through violence and harrowing conditions in Blue Nile, refugees in South Sudan’s
Heavy rains flooded the camps
After heavy rains the majority of Jamam camp - one of three refugee camps in the area - flooded last Thursday night. The latrines have overflowed, contaminating water sources, which are then not fit for human consumption while there is a general shortage of potable water. Many camp residents, including children, sleep in wet clothes under soaked blankets, leaving them vulnerable to hypothermia.
Over the last two weeks, MSF medical teams in Jamam have treated at least 2,500 people for diarrhoeal diseases, respiratory diseases, malaria, and malnutrition. As the rains increase, more and more people are falling ill, especially from malaria and hypothermia. Young children are the most vulnerable.
“Our clinic is already filled with children suffering from pneumonia, diarrhoea, and malnutrition,” said Dr. Erna Rijnierse, working with MSF in Jamam. “If they stay in these sorts of conditions, there could well be profoundly distressing consequences.”
Rising mortality rate among children
Preliminary medical data gathered by MSF in Jamam Camp during the week of 18 June, before the onset of consistent heavy rains, revealed a mortality rate among children of 2.8 per 10,000 per day, above the emergency threshold of 2 per 10,000 per day. The crude, or overall, mortality rate was 1.8. One death per 10,000 people per day is the emergency threshold, defining this as a severe situation. For Jamam camp alone it means that every day almost three children were dying. Sixty-five per cent of deaths were reportedly due to diarrhea.
The rains will also further exacerbate unhygienic conditions in the camps, creating ideal conditions for the further spread of disease. The soaked earth is already making transport exceedingly difficult to all the refugee camps in the area. To meet the immediate lifesaving needs of the refugees, roads and airstrips must be improved to facilitate the transport of aid personnel and heavy equipment in order to adequately achieve a comprehensive level of assistance needed by this highly vulnerable, exhausted population.
“The living conditions in Jamam are now simply unacceptable,” said Newell. “What’s needed is for all agencies involved, led by the UNHCR, to come up with a solution together that can remove these refugees from the health risks associated with the dire living conditions in the camp. We have to proceed with a great sense of urgency.”