IOM Responds as Rainy Season Threatens Further Spread of Cholera in South Sudan

A woman carries clean water at the Wau protection of civilians site in South Sudan. IOM/McLaughlin 2017.Juba – As the rainy season progresses in South Sudan, rapid responses are critical to stemming the cholera outbreak that has affected the country for over a year. The outbreak has compounded already dire humanitarian needs. Approximately four million people have been displaced by the conflict that erupted in December 2013.

Since 18 June 2016, over 18,000 cholera cases—including 328 deaths—have been reported in South Sudan. IOM health and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) teams continue to respond to the outbreak through case management and preventive measures across the country.

Disease outbreaks are particularly dangerous for displaced and vulnerable populations, such as children under five years of age, who account for more than one in five cholera cases reported in 2017.

Many locations experiencing outbreaks are in proximity to the Nile River, increasing the impact of the rainy season on the cholera outbreak and threat of spreading further.

“In a country with mass displacement and severe levels of food insecurity, the effect of the continued cholera outbreak on the health of vulnerable populations is acute,” explained Dr. Beldina Gikundi, IOM South Sudan Migration Health Emergency Officer. “As we saw the outbreak continue even during the dry season in 2017, we expect to see the trend persist throughout the rainy season, which leaves as much as 60 per cent of the country inaccessible by road. Sustained and flexible responses are crucial to stemming the continued transmission of the disease in this extremely challenging context.”

An IOM WASH team has been on the ground in Kapoeta, Eastern Equatoria, since May to help stem the outbreak that began in April, with more than 4,200 cases reported.

To date, the team has repaired 84 boreholes, distributed cholera response kits—including jerry cans, water treatment supplies and soap—to more than 2,600 households, as well as conducted water quality monitoring and treatment at water points and distributed soap and household water treatment supplies during hygiene promotion sessions.

Since the outbreak began, IOM teams have been deployed to cholera-affected areas across the country. Teams continue to conduct hygiene promotion, core relief item distribution and borehole repairs in Bentiu and Rubkona towns, and Wau town and surrounding areas, as well as in UN protection of civilian sites across the country.

IOM health teams—in collaboration with partners, the UN World Health Organization and the Ministry of Health—are conducting oral cholera vaccination (OCV) campaigns across the country, recently reaching more than 39,900 people in parts of Jonglei and Unity in an effort to reduce the number of cholera cases in outbreak areas.

IOM is currently on the ground in Warrap, preparing to lead an upcoming OCV campaign targeting more than 189,000 people in Tonj East County.

Through the USAID Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (USAID/OFDA) Rapid Response Fund (RRF), managed by IOM, partners have been deployed on 14 missions to respond to and promote prevention of cholera cases since the outbreak began in 2016. Seven RRF partners are currently on the ground in three states to provide health and WASH assistance to cholera-affected communities.

IOM conducts multi-sector humanitarian responses across South Sudan, where over 7.5 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance. The scale of needs is unprecedented, with approximately one in three South Sudanese displaced from their homes today, compared to 1 in 12 during the first year of the crisis.

For more information, please contact Ashley McLaughlin at IOM South Sudan, Tel: +211 912 379 793, Email:


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