Cholera Epidemic in Sudan

Dear Dr. Ghebreyesus,

We wish to kindly draw your attention to the cholera epidemic currently ravaging many parts of the Republic of Sudan and caused the death of thousands of victims, especially in Sudan’s peripheral areas. Since the outbreak of the disease in August 2016, all of Sudan’s 18 States, including the national capital Khartoum and its twin cities Omdurman and Khartoum North (Bahri) were severely affected. The epicentre of the cholera pandemic is now reported in war- ravaged Darfur region.

All indicators suggest the widespread nature of the disease and the need for urgent intervention of the World Health Organisation. Evidence of the existence of the disease is that on 1 st June 2017, Sudan’s Federal Minster of Health informed the National Assembly “Parliament” about the spread of the disease in many parts of Sudan and he provided precise figures of the number of cases registered and the mortalities reported during the period August 2016 – June 2017. Other independent sources, including the US Embassy in Khartoum and the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF) confirmed, in two separate occasions, the spread of cholera in Sudan.

Although we believe that the figures indicated by the Government of Sudan are conservative and do not reflect the reality on the ground, however, the case fatality rate deduced in June 2017 is over 1.8% of confirmed cholera cases, which is a mortality rate above the threshold to declare cholera epidemic in a country. According to independent medical practitioners in Khartoum and elsewhere in Sudan the numbers of confirmed cases of cholera are much higher and that the mortality rate in some affected areas has reached over 10% of the declared cases. We are very concerned that the Government of Sudan refused to declare the existence of cholera in the country for several months and instead it refers to the epidemic as “acute watery diarrhoea” in the words of Sudan’s Minister of Health when he informed journalists in Khartoum about the existence of the disease on 4 June 2017. The apparent unwillingness of the Government of Sudan to declare the cholera epidemic in the country severely affected mobilization efforts to rescue the victims. In addition, there were reports that GoS – at Federal and State levels – obstructed the work of local volunteers. Dr. Hussein Gasim Abu-Aker, head of medical emergency service at Omdurman Hospital had been dismissed from his post because he refused to conceal the existence of the cholera epidemic. On 7 June 2017, the security forces arrested and detained three activists (Mr. Ahmed Abu Zaid, Adil Hadatha and Eyman Ali Ismail) while they were taking part in an awareness raising campaign against cholera in Haj Yusuf residential area in Khartoum Bahri.

Dear Dr. Ghebreyesus,

We call on you to take leadership in addressing the cholera crisis in Sudan, especially in the Darfur region and save the lives of thousands of likely victims that are languishing in miserably camps for internally displaced persons. We persuade particularly appeal to you to call upon the Government of Sudan to declare, in no ambiguous terms, the existence of cholera pandemic in the country. We further call on the WHO to develop emergency plans for intervention to curb the ongoing cholera epidemic in Sudan taking into consideration the special needs of regions of the country that witness concentration of vulnerable groups in densely populated makeshift settlements with extremely poor health service and sanitation such as Darfur, where environmental and health infrastructures are extremely poor.

Signed:

1. Abdelbagi Jibril, Darfur Relief and Documentation Centre

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(c) 2017 Abdelbagi Jibril,

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