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South Sudan: Oxfam warns of cholera outbreak risk as over 300 people share single water tap

Thursday 29 Feb, 2024 {HMC} Oxfam, an international charity organization, has warned of the increasing risk of cholera at the transit centers in Renk, a border town between Sudan and South Sudan, due to the influx of over half a million people fleeing Sudan’s conflict.

In a statement released on Thursday, the charity organization reported that two transit centers, initially intended to house only 4,750 people, are currently accommodating over 15,000 people, exceeding their capacity by fourfold. Shockingly, over 300 people sharing share a single water tap, intensifying concerns about sanitation and hygiene. Up to 5,000 more people live in the open without access to clean water or proper hygiene.

Even before the recent conflict, there were 1,027 cases of cholera in South Sudan. The rains and a lack of proper water or sanitation increase the risk of disease outbreaks. The statement said that one hundred people share just one latrine – more than double the minimum standard.

Oxfam in South Sudan Country Director, Dr. Manenji Mangundu, said: “I just came back from Renk where people are crammed in shelters in horrifying conditions. Many have to queue for hours just to use clean water or a toilet. Without an immediate injection of funds, the situation will explode into a full-blown catastrophe, leaving many more people at risk of diseases and going hungry. The upcoming rainy season in April will cut off major roads hampering vital aid and further limiting people’s transportation to shelters.”

Over 80% of the population in South Sudan – four out of five people – already urgently need humanitarian assistance. Overlapping crises, including five years of floods and conflicts in some parts of the country, have already devastated the lives and livelihoods of millions of people.

Bibiana Peter, a mother of five who was forced to flee her home in Sudan and now living in transit centre 2 in Renk, said: “The hunger is unbearable. My children eat only once a day if they are lucky. Their meal is a small bowl of lentils for the entire day as I watch them suffer from malnutrition. I need to walk deep into the forest for firewood, facing multiple hazards such as snakes and the risk of being attacked. If I’m lucky, I sell firewood to buy little food, and if not, we sleep hungry and in the open, leading to diseases and insecurity.”

The upcoming lean season (April to July 2024) will force food stocks to hit their lowest level, compounding the already dire situation for the host community. Over 7 million people in South Sudan face extreme hunger – including 79,000 facing catastrophic levels of hunger. This number has increased by 22% percent, while the number of people experiencing catastrophic hunger has more than doubled.

Despite a surge in the number of people fleeing the conflict in Sudan and the worsening humanitarian catastrophe, funding has dwindled to an unprecedented low. The UN appeal for South Sudan in 2023 has been slashed by half compared to previous years.

Since the beginning of this year, less than 4% of $1.79 billion UN appeal has been raised. This low level of funding has severely curtailed humanitarian efforts.

“With major global crises attracting attention, the crisis in South Sudan is forgotten. But the world must not turn a blind eye. We are racing against time but funding cuts at this time are stretching our capacity to the limit and are a recipe for disaster. Every day of delayed action means irreversible harm to a population that has already suffered years of devastation and poverty,” added Manenji.

The statement further added that Oxfam and its partners have provided clean water and adequate sanitation to over 70,000 people in the transit camps. However, there is an urgent need for $7 million to scale up operations and reach 400,000 people with essential life-saving provisions such as food, clean water, and sanitation.

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