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Left in lurch, one in 10 South Sudanese children die in Ethiopian hospitals

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
6/17/2014 (2 years ago)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Fleeing conflict in homeland, children left without shelter fall prey to illness

Fleeing warfare and unrest, hundreds of thousands of women and their children have been forced out of South Sudan to neighboring Ethiopia, walking for days without food and water. According to the non-governmental organization Doctors Without Borders, one in 10 South Sudanese children are dying in Ethiopian hospitals, their compromised immune systems falling prey to otherwise treatable conditions as diarrhea.

Half of all South Sudanese refugees in Ethiopian camps live under plastic sheeting where there is a severe shortage of water and latrines.

Half of all South Sudanese refugees in Ethiopian camps live under plastic sheeting where there is a severe shortage of water and latrines.

Highlights

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
6/17/2014 (2 years ago)

Published in Africa

Keywords: South Sudanese refugees, Ethiopia, camps, children, hospitals


LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - According to Doctors Without Borders, also known as MSF, the situation will only worsen as seasonal rains set in.

Around 150,000 South Sudanese have fled to Ethiopia since conflict erupted in the world's newest nation in December. 

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"It's a massive emergency," Antoine Foucher, MSF's head of mission in Ethiopia says. "One child out of ten coming into our hospitals is actually dying for a variety of reasons ranging from late referrals to very bad health status that is practically not curable."

Warfare between government forces and rebels has driven 1.5 million South Sudanese from their homes and left 3.5 million, a third of the population, suffering acute or emergency-level food shortages, according to the United Nations says.

One in four of the children who arrive in Ethiopia are malnourished, their bodies unable to fight off illnesses such as measles, diarrhea and respiratory infections.

He rapidly approaching rainy season will only aggravate the situation, worsening sanitary conditions and the incidence of malaria. "It's a race against time," Foucher says. "We have a one month window of opportunity . to bring the conditions up to standard if we want to avoid a catastrophe on the catastrophe."

There are two hospitals currently treating South Sudanese refugees. In Lietchuor camp, seven percent of the children have died. Located in the town of Itang, 10 kilometers from Kule camp, the death rate is 18 percent.

Ethiopia was home to just 50,000 South Sudanese refugees before the war erupted. Aid agencies have been struggling to cope with the sudden influx, which has been as high as 15,000 arrivals per day. It's a catastrophe waiting to happen as the population of the camps could reach 350,000 by the end of the year.

Adding immeasurably to the high death rate is the fact that new arrivals sometimes have to wait up to a month at transit sites before being resettled in the permanent camps.

"This period is naturally very critical because this is the moment when they do need the most intensive care," Foucher says.

"MSF teams provide medical care in these transit camps, treating the children, some of whom die within the first days following their arrival."

Half of the refugees in the camps live under plastic sheeting where there is a severe shortage of water and latrines.

"After several weeks in the camps, where living conditions are very precarious, they do not get any better," MSF says. There is a very high prevalence of diarrhea and pneumonia among hospitalized children.

In humanitarian emergencies, people are supposed to receive 20 liters of water per person per day. At the Burubiey transit center, it is only seven liters.

Each latrine should be shared by a maximum of 20 people. At Kule 1 camp, MSF said, there are 288 people per latrine.

"If the situation is not improved - in terms of water supplies, in terms of latrines availability, in terms of shelter - then the medical unit that has been deployed by MSF will only be able to tackle the consequences," Foucher said.

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