Sudan, South Sudan report measles outbreak

Thursday July 06 2023

Women and children gather in a building at a camp for the internally displaced in al-Suwar, about 15 kilometres north of Wad Madani, Sudan on June 22, 2023. PHOTO | AFP


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, Kenya, MSF’s health advisor Mitchell Sangma says the health body'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.

Read: Two children die, 30 ill after measles outbreak in S. Sudan


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 centres still in operation are struggling to cope with limited supplies and staff.

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.

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.

The World Health Organization says six of counties in Unity State, located in the greater Upper West Nile region, have reported cases of measles. Loro Fredrick Beden, WHO's field coordinator in Unity State, says suspected cases of measles have increased since last week.

Read: Zimbabwe measles deaths hit 157

In response, Unity State health director Dr Duol Biem says the government and non-profit organizations are conducting mass vaccination campaigns to control the spread of the disease.

Biem said Koch, Guit, Rubkona, Leer, Mayendit and Mayom counties have recorded cases of the disease due to the influx of returnees fleeing the conflict in Sudan, and state health workers are working with aid agencies to vaccinate children against the killer disease and control its spread.

The agencies have vaccinated more than 9,000 children at Riotriak transit camp, targeting children aged 6 months to 16 years.

"The aim is that this campaign will halt the transmission of measles, and safeguard the vulnerable population," Biem said.

The health ministry says it will also provide polio and Covid-19 vaccines to adults who are returning or seeking refuge in South Sudan because of the crisis.

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 (IOM) this week.