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IOM Increases Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Interventions for South Sudan Refugees to Avert Spread of Hepatitis E

By International Office of Migration (IOM)
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GENEVA, Switzerland, February 5, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- IOM is intensifying the digging of emergency latrines and increasing its hygiene promotion activities at Doro camp, one of four refugee camps established in South Sudan's Upper Nile State over the past year for more than 115,000 refugees fleeing violence in Sudan's Blue Nile State.

IOM is providing water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services to over 40,000 refugees at Doro camp. Although current standards of access to water and sanitation stand at 21 liters per person per day and 15 persons per latrine, the organization is intensifying sanitation and hygiene promotion efforts in response to an outbreak of hepatitis E, notably in areas on the edge of the camp where the first suspected cases were reported.

“We're currently working on the construction of an additional 336 latrines in the villages of Jumjum and Ingasana. At this point 200 have been completed,” says IOM Chief of Mission in South Sudan Vincent Houver.

“Additional community hygiene promoters are also being deployed and water tanks are being installed to ensure that people in outlying areas of the camp get better access to clean water and sanitation. They are currently potentially vulnerable to the spread of waterborne diseases that have already broken out in other camps,” he adds.

IOM is also working with partners to reduce the risk of transmission of waterborne diseases through the chlorination of drinking water, by increasing the number of hand washing points and by ramping up the distribution of soap and other hygiene materials.

Sensitization and community mobilization initiatives are being carried out in parallel with these activities to educate camp residents on the proper use of latrines and hand washing facilities.

In September 2012, South Sudan's Ministry of Health announced an outbreak of Hepatitis E in three refugee camps - Jamam, Gendrassa and Yusif Batil. Hepatitis E is a virus that causes an infection of the liver and can be transmitted by consuming water and food contaminated with faeces.

Symptomatic infection is most common in young adults, but the virus poses the greatest risk to pregnant women. To date, close to 5,000 suspected Hepatitis E cases have been identified across the Maban area, according to the latest data from South Sudan's Ministry of Health.

IOM has been operating in Maban since December 2011, supporting the UNHCR-led response to the influx of refugees. It provides transport assistance through a common transport system, as well as WASH interventions, working closely with humanitarian partners.

IOM, which is currently working in Maban with support from Canada and Italy, is appealing for USD 13 million to support its South Sudan refugee response in 2013. Unless new funding is found, the programme will run out of money in March.