Closing down Kala Azar emergency project in South Soudan

April 5, 2012

Closing down Kala Azar emergency project in South Soudan © Ian Cumming

After supporting the health authorities of South Sudan to successfully fight the largest outbreak in years of the deadly disease kala azar, MSF has now handed its project in Malakal, Upper Nile State in South Sudan, to local health authorities.

In October 2010, MSF responded to an outbreak of kala azar in the city of Malakal and surroundings. The hospital there, and rural health centres in the region were struggling with insufficient medical supplies, drugs and trained staff for the rapidly growing numbers of patients. MSF donated medicines, rapid tests, gloves and other essential items, and helped to treat more than 2770 patients in Malakal hospital and treatment centres in Rom, Pagil, Atar, Chuei, Khorfulus and Adong between October 2010 and March 2012. MSF also provided training on correct diagnosis and treatment of kala azar, and gave other technical support.

“Now that the outbreak subsided, we have to direct our resources at other, currently more urgent needs in South Sudan,” said MSF Head of Mission Monica Camacho, explaining why MSF is closing down the project.

MSF remains an active provider of emergency health care in South Sudan with projects in twelve areas. Through its programming, the organisation aims to be present where suffering and mortality are at their most intense and to deal with newly-emerging needs as a result of epidemics, violence, neglect or the government’s incapacity to respond.

Kala azar or visceral leishmaniasis is a parasitic disease transmitted by the bite of a sandfly. Without treatment, nearly all patients die. Kala azar is endemic in 76 countries, putting approximately 200 million people at risk of infection. The disease often affects the poorest populations. Epidemics associated with high mortality are frequent where conditions such as complex emergencies, mass migration, high rates of HIV and poor nutritional status accelerate the development and spread of the disease, and where many patients do not have access to treatment.

South Sudan became independent from the Republic of Sudan to the North in July last year, after decades of civil war. Medical needs among the people of South Sudan remain significant and it is estimated that up to 75% of people have no access to adequate healthcare. Maternal mortality is worryingly high in many areas and preventable diseases- malaria, acute diarrhoea and measles- are common causes of death.

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