Refugees from South Sudan wait for relief materials at a refugee camp in Sudan's White Nile state near the border with South Sudan on May 17, 2017. (Xinhua/Mohamed Babiker)
JUBA, July 21 (Xinhua) -- The UN World Health Organization (WHO) said Thursday it is working with South Sudan's health ministry and partners to scale up use of oral cholera vaccines and strengthen strategies for improving access to patient care, surveillance and social mobilization to combat outbreaks.
WHO said in a statement on Thursday that it has received 500,000 doses of Oral Cholera Vaccine (OVC) for a planned campaign scheduled to take place from 28 July to 3 August in four selected counties with high active transmission.
The UN health agency said a total of 17,785 cholera cases including 320 deaths have been reported from 24 counties in South Sudan since the outbreak was reported in June 2016.
The agency added that it is helping South Sudan implement the integrated approach for cholera control, which seeks to harness strategies for improving access to patient care, surveillance, social mobilization, water and sanitation among others.
Joseph Wamala, WHO epidemiologist said cholera is endemic in South Sudan and historically, outbreaks have occurred along major commercial routes and rivers in the dry season as well as during the rainy season, adding that a successful vaccination campaign would scale down further outbreaks.
"South Sudan has suffered from several major cholera outbreaks in the last four years. Following other successful oral cholera vaccine campaigns, WHO and partners can make a real difference in controlling the outbreak in Tonj and Kapoeta states and in other parts of the country," said Wamala.
The UN health agency said with some 6 million people in South Sudan facing starvation, there is possibility of the cholera outbreak spreading further across the East African nation, adding that it has scaled up collaboration with partners to abate the situation.
It added that drought has also led to the drying of water points in some regions leading to the population using contaminated water from the remaining few unprotected points leading to repeated outbreaks of water-borne diseases including cholera.
It said WHO and partners have been responding across the country, particularly in places facing famine, food insecurity and disease outbreaks.
According to WHO, many countries and partners have introduced OCVs as part of their cholera control programs in endemic and epidemic settings.