January 8, 2013 - Los Angeles, Calif. – An outbreak of Hepatitis E Virus (HEV) has been confirmed in refugee communities in Maban County, Upper Nile State, South Sudan which hosts over 110,000 refugees in camps. Many of the refugees are Sudanese women and children fleeing conflict and hunger in neighboring Blue Nile State of Sudan. HEV causes an infection of the liver and can be transmitted by consuming water and food contaminated with feces – it generally spreads in places with poor hygiene. In response to more than 130 confirmed cases of HEV, 16 recorded deaths in camps throughout Maban and an alarming increase in acute jaundice syndrome, International Medical Corps has developed a HEV active surveillance, treatment, management and referral protocol which is integrated into our existing primary health care services in Gendrassa camp. We are also establishing a 24-hour, 10-bed isolation unit to manage hemorrhagic jaundice cases.
Social mobilization, community outreach and active surveillance of acute jaundice cases are ongoing. As part of efforts to raise awareness, International Medical Corps conducted a series of community leader (sheikh) trainings focused on HEV signs and symptoms, measures to prevent HEV and the importance of timely referral particularly for pregnant women. International Medical Corps trained 25 community health and hygiene volunteers on health education, hygiene promotion and acute jaundice active case finding.
Incessant rains in recent months have flooded the Jamam refugee camp, prompting the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to establish Gendrassa camp in Maban County where International Medical Corps is providing health and malnutrition screenings; health, hygiene and nutrition education; immunizations; de-worming; and Vitamin A supplementation and constructing latrines. To date, International Medical Corps has provided over 12,000 patient consultations averaging around 1,000 per week with 37% of all consultations for children under five years.
In addition to screening children under five and pregnant and lactating women for malnutrition, International Medical Corps is also implementing supplementary feeding programs to prevent malnutrition among the refugee population. Based on the nutrition screenings conducted, 505 children under five and 550 pregnant and lactating women were admitted into our Targeted Supplementary Feeding Program and 4,034 are currently enrolled in our Blanket Supplementary Feeding Program.
International Medical Corps is also actively engaging local leaders and sheikhs to educate the refugee population on proper health, hygiene and nutrition practices. In addition, International Medical Corps has constructed 20 latrines with an additional 40 under construction. In anticipation of a cholera outbreak, International Medical Corps has prepositioned cholera kits in Maban and is preparing a cholera treatment unit.
Earlier this year, International Medical Corps scaled up operations to respond to the needs of refugee and returnee populations throughout South Sudan. In Pochalla County, Jonglei State, International Medical Corps is the only international NGO providing health services in Alari refugee camp, where 4,000 refugees who fled violence in Ethiopia are currently residing. International Medical Corps is also supporting 21 health facilities and responding to casualties in Jonglei, where inter-communal fighting in has been ongoing since early 2011. Operational in South Sudan since 1994, International Medical Corps currently works in Upper Nile, Jonglei State, Western Bahr el Ghazal, Central Equatoria, and Western Equatoria States.
Since its inception nearly 30 years ago, International Medical Corps' mission has been consistent: relieve the suffering of those impacted by war, natural disaster and disease, by delivering vital health care services that focus on training. This approach of helping people help themselves is critical to returning devastated populations to self-reliance.