MEDAIR’s alignment with CHS helps contain cholera outbreak in South Sudan

17 April 2018

Commitment 2

In June last year Medair, one of our member organisations, averted a deadly cholera outbreak in South Sudan by timely response that addressed the needs of communities.

Medair in South Sudan

Medair has been present in Renk since 2011, providing integrated health, nutrition, and water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) services. Although Medair works in several communities around Renk through Integrated Community Case Management and Care Groups, the projects are focused on three IDP/returnee settlements; Abayok, Payuer, and Wonthow.

Cholera crisis

From June 2016 to January 2018, South Sudan experienced its most protracted and deadly cholera outbreak since independence in 2011. There were over 20,000 suspected cases of cholera and 436 deaths reported. The outbreak spread northwards, particularly affecting counties bordering the Nile River and approaching Renk increasingly closely.

Risk of cholera in Renk

Located in the north of South Sudan near the border with Sudan, Renk is home to a host community, internally displaced people (IDPs), and returnees. The county’s population is fluid, with frequent movement between the north and the south and other areas around the Nile River. The  risk of a cholera outbreak reaching Renk was high. The team was aware that if cholera reached Renk, due to the malnutrition emergency bringing increased illness vulnerability, and the population having heavy reliance on water from the Nile, an outbreak could be particularly deadly.

Cholera preparation in Renk

The health team prepositioned supplies including rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs), Oral Rehydration Salts and intravenous fluids. They also trained the clinic staff on cholera symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment. Medair’s ‘Care Group’ volunteer lead mothers spread diarrhoea prevention messages throughout their communities. The WASH team increased hygiene promotion messaging and continued to construct latrines and distribute water purification items.

Timely response to cholera outbreak in Renk 

When a suspected cholera case was reported in Wonthow, near Renk, in South Sudan, Medair swiftly mobilised and travelled to the spot. The health team immediately began setting up a cholera treatment unit (CTU) near the clinic and started treating patients. A sample was sent to Juba which confirmed that this was definitely cholera, and signalled the beginning of an outbreak.

The WASH team assisted in the construction of 30 household latrines in Fukar and distributed 100 buckets and PuR and filter cloths for water purification. The team maintained its cholera response in the Wonthow area for several weeks until no more cases were reported.

Crisis avoided and lives saved

In total, 11 cholera patients were treated in Renk across June and July 2017. The outbreak many feared would devastate Renk was averted.

“Crises are never convenient, but the ability to adjust and move quickly when a new crisis arises is essential in Medair’s work as an emergency response organisation,” says Liz Lewis, Health Advisor with Medair. “This case shows how actions that are aligned to the Core Humanitarian Standard on Quality and Accountability (CHS) bear great fruit.”

Medair’s work in South Sudan is made possible with support from the European Union, US Agency for International Development, UK aid from the UK Government, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, Swiss Solidarity, SlovakAid, and generous private donors.

This content was produced with resources gathered by Medair field and headquarters staff. The views expressed herein are those solely of Medair and should not be taken, in any way, to reflect the official opinion of any other organisation.