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Sat, 16 Feb 2013 16:00 - Updated Sat, 16 Feb 2013 16:00

Hepatitis E Affects Thousands, Kills 111 in S. Sudan Refugee Camps


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Juba — The UN refugee agency on Friday said that an outbreak of hepatitis E has affected more than 6,000 people in South Sudan refugee camps since July and added that 111 of them had died.

"The largest number of cases and suspected cases is in the Yusuf Batil camp in Upper Nile state, which accounts for 3,937 cases, or almost 70 per cent of the total, and 77 deaths," said UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards. The camp currently holds more than 37,200 refugees.

Jamam Camp, also in Upper Nile, has recorded 1,320 cases and 25 deaths, followed by the Gendrassa Camp with 577 cases and three deaths. In Doro Camp, 58 cases have been recorded thus far, including two deaths, said Edwards, while noting that Hepatitis E was endemic in the region near the border with Sudan. The figures were compiled by UNHCR, the South Sudanese government and the World Health Organization (WHO).

Samson Paul Baba, a senior government health official, said the Hepatitis E situation was a serious concern for the authorities. "I appeal to all partners to put every effort to contain the outbreak as soon as possible," he said, after visiting the camps in Upper Nile.

Further west, in Unity State, the situation is less dramatic. 125 cases or suspected cases and four deaths have been recorded at the Yida site, which with a population of 65,540 people holds the largest concentration of  refugees in South Sudan.

The majority of refugees in camps where the disease is most widespread are from Blue Nile state, an isolated rural area in Sudan where there are few established latrine facilities and uncontaminated water is not readily available. "UNHCR believes the growth in the population due to the refugee influx from Blue Nile could be one of the factors in the rapid spread of the disease," Edwards said.