MSF calls for urgent action amid recurring epidemics, rising malnutrition

MSF calls for urgent action amid recurring epidemics, rising malnutrition

Mary Abuk Kiir attends to her daughter Anger Mayuot, at the stabilisation centre in Kuajok Hospital at the children’s ward. Kiir sat beside her extremely malnourished toddler, hoping to return home with a healthy infant. [Sheila Ponnie, The City Review]

The Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) expressed concerns over the persistent threat of deadly epidemic outbreaks and escalating malnutrition cases in South Sudan.

The NGO is urging for a transformative shift in humanitarian aid delivery to avert preventable deaths.

South Sudan continues to grapple with the devastating impact of recurring deadly epidemic outbreaks, exacerbating the already dire situation of malnutrition. The stark reality reveals that one out of every 10 children in the country succumbs to preventable diseases before reaching the age of five, with more than 75 per cent of these deaths attributed to malaria, diarrhoea, or pneumonia.

Alarmingly, the current high levels of malnutrition further compound the mortality rates among children under five, with approximately 1.65 million children acutely malnourished.

Dr. Jatinder Singh, MSF Medical Coordinator in the country, underscored the heightened vulnerability of malnourished children to preventable-vaccine diseases, including meningitis, measles, yellow fever, cholera, and malaria. The prevailing Integrated Food Security and Nutrition Phase Classification (IPC) report underscores the severity of the situation, with 56 per cent of the population facing acute food insecurity, categorized as crisis.

“Malnutrition significantly compromises immunity, rendering individuals more susceptible to infectious diseases. This risk is particularly exacerbated in refugee and internally displaced camps, where malnutrition, overcrowding, and poor water and sanitation conditions fuel the spread of contagious diseases,” stressed Dr. Singh.

The ongoing Sudanese civil war has forced over 700,000 people to seek refuge across borders. Around 1.5 million South Sudanese reside in camps, grappling with recurrent floods and internal conflicts. Forced displacement disrupted routine vaccination schedules, heightening the vulnerability of both displaced and host populations to infectious diseases.

MSF advocated for the widespread and robust implementation of the Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI), spearheaded by the World Health Organization (WHO), as a potential game-changer for South Sudan. Evidence demonstrates that enhanced vaccination coverage not only shields children from vaccine-preventable diseases but also contributes to mitigating malnutrition rates.

Zakaria Mwatia, MSF Head of Mission in South Sudan, underscored the imperative of collaborative efforts to ensure universal access to life-saving vaccines.

“Investing in large-scale preventable-vaccines campaigns for all children can yield substantial savings in terms of money, time, and most importantly, lives. Through concerted action with the Ministry of Health and humanitarian partners, we can effectively prevent and respond to disease outbreaks,” stated Mwatia.

MSF reaffirmed its commitment to supporting the Ministry of Health in conducting comprehensive vaccination campaigns, integrating vaccinations with complementary health services such as nutrition interventions and sensitization sessions.

Effective coordination among health partners, coupled with collaboration across critical sectors including nutrition, food security, and water sanitation and hygiene, is imperative to strengthen South Sudan’s resilience against disease outbreaks.