Sudan reports 13 dead in Measles outbreak

Residents displaced from a surge of violent attacks squat on blankets and in hastily made tents in the village of Masteri in west Darfur, Sudan, July 30, 2020. [AP Photo]

Health organizations in Sudan's White Nile state said at least 13 children have died over the past week due to a suspected measles outbreak. An official with the Doctors Without Borders, known by its French acronym MSF, said Sudan's conflict and the approach of the rainy season could make the situation much worse.

Officials with the international medical organization MSF say they remain concerned about an increase of suspected measles cases among children in Sudan's White Nile state.

Speaking to VOA via a messaging application from Nairobi, Mitchell Sangma, MSF's health advisor, says MSF's ground team have documented more than 200 suspected cases of measles among children in the last month.

He says out of that number, 72 were admitted to hospitals and 13 died.

"We are also seeing an increasing number of suspected measles in our other projects such as in Blue Nile state in Sudan. And in Renk, on the other side of the border in South Sudan, we are also seeing increasing measles cases in our measles isolation wards. So, the situation for people fleeing the conflict is desperately concerning," he said.

The MSF official says the nearly three-month-old conflict in Sudan between the army and a rival paramilitary group has created a huge medical need and intense pressure on health care facilities all over the country.

Sangma says MSF and other aid agencies are concerned about the collapsing health system. He says health centers still in operation are struggling to cope with limited supplies and staff.

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Sangma notes that as the rainy season draws near, there is an increased possibility of disease outbreaks among the millions of people displaced from their homes by the war.

The organization says there is a need to step up services like vaccinations, nutritional support, shelter, water and sanitation.

"Rainy season is fast approaching and we are very concerned about the rising waterborne diseases such as cholera and also to note that malaria is also very much endemic in this region. We need to scale up, we need experienced medical expertise on the ground," said Sangma.

VOA reached out to Mustafa Jabrallah Ahmed, director general at the Ministry of Health in Blue Nile for this story, but he declined to comment, saying he was busy with meetings.

More than 2.8 million people have been displaced due to the Sudan conflict, including over 2.2 million internally, according to a report released by the International Organization for Migration this week.

The violence makes it difficult for people to access health care, with many getting treatment late as it is too dangerous to travel to health facilities.