Jonglei: Malaria, Malnutrition on the rise after violent clashes

By Julius N. Uma

February 5, 2012 (JUBA) — 16-year old Nyayan Giet lies helpless on a metallic bed in a maternity ward at Walgak Primary Health Care Center (PHCC) as she quietly stares at at roof with no ceiling. Her husband and a relative closely monitor her condition.

“She is suffering from malaria. She was brought a few days back after giving birth to her baby,” Rebecca Nyabuom, a community midwife at the center tells Valerie Amos, the United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator.

Walgak, a village located in South Sudan’s Jonglei state county of Akobo has approximately 6,000 people, according to the 2008 population and housing census.

The area, which currently has some 50 UN peacekeepers and about 100 organized forces came under attack between December 28 and January 10 displacing thousands of the population.

Rebecca Nyabuom, a midwife speaking to Valerie Amos, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator at Walgak Primary Healthcare Center (Photo by Julius Uma)

David Ruei Guem, a community health worker at the healthcare center says Malaria, Malnutrition and Diarrhea are the worst reported cases among children at the facility, established the International Medical Corps (IMC) in 2003.

“Surprisingly, we have very few cases of children suffering from measles recorded at the center,” says the 29-year old health official.

In recent months, Walgak PHCC has become a hub where heath workers grapple with thousands of the populations displaced in what many have termed as the worst ethnic violence in South Sudan’s post-session era.

Amos, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator who led a team that visited Walgak and later Pibor on Thursday, described the humanitarian situation in both areas as “extremely” serious, adding that UN was overstretched in its efforts to respond to the emergency needs of over 88,000 displaced in Pibor alone.

“The humanitarian situation is extremely serious,” said Amos, adding that, “[And] currently the UN is extremely stretched to manage the overwhelming situation in the region.”

She however pledged to continue lobbying for more support to address the plight of those affected by the wave of ethnic violence, which the UN estimates to have displaced more than 120,000 people in Jonglei state.

Last month, South Sudan government declared Jonglei a disaster zone after violence, which started last year in April, June and later August between the Murle and Luo Nuer communities escalated in December and continued mid-way through January this year.

An inter-agency humanitarian assessment carried in the conflict affected areas identified food, water, heath and sanitation as the most urgent needs of the conflict- affected population.

The UN, Amos said, has already earmarked $760 million as humanitarian aid for South Sudan alone. Most of the funds, she added, will be directed towards food provision, health care, water, sanitation and hygiene assistance.

Although poor infrastructures were cited as major setbacks to effective responses from aid agencies, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator lauded the operational coordination hub established in Pibor to respond to conflict affected areas in and around the town.

Currently, a total of 17 humanitarian organizations are providing live-saving assistance to the population in Pibor, compare to only eight reportedly in operation in the region prior to the latest outbreak of violence.

WORSE MALNUTRITION CASES

Loud cries also welcomed the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator as she visited Pibor Boys Primary School. The school facility, which was established in 1956, has temporarily been transformed into an emergency health center for handling malnutrition cases.

MEDAIR health workers (in blue) attend to children affected by Malnutrition in Pibor Boys Primary School in Pibor County, Jonglei state (Photo by Julius Uma).

A team of workers from the medical charity organization, MEDAIR are busy taking measurements of children to determine the exact heights of visibly malnourished children, after which details are filled on a manila paper to determine their nutritional requirements.

“As you can see,” an official narrates, “These [manila] papers are of three different colors. A child whose details appear on a green one is considered to be fine, while those carrying yellow and red papers usually have moderate and severe malnutrition respectively.

Everyday, at least more than 200 malnutrition cases are registered at the temporary health unit, according to the daily nutrition screening sheets.

Since January this year, statistics from Medicines San Frontiers (MSF) indicate, the number of children with malnutrition cases is eight times that of the previous year, while that of Malaria has more than tripled.

An estimated 9,000 children, according to UN Children Fund (UNICEF), are currently out of schools in and around Pibor country. However, the organization says it’s working closely with country education offices to ensure these children, who abandoned school after the violent clashes in the area, return to school. Pibor has 29 primary and only one secondary schools.

Joshua Konyi, the Pibor county commissioner told the vising UN assessment team that albeit calm had been restored in the area, more organized forces need to be deployed in the region to avert future attacks.

Source: Sudan Tribune

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