S.Sudan in 'dramatic' need: Red Cross

AFP , Friday 6 Jul 2012

The International Committee of the Red Cross says 'many humanitarian need remain unmet' in the year-long independent South Sudan

South Sudan
South Sudan during its celebrations of independence in July 2011. (Photo: Reuters)

South Sudan declared independence almost a year ago but its problems are getting worse, the International Committee of the Red Cross said on Friday.

"Many humanitarian needs remain unmet. Communities lack access to basic health-care services," the ICRC said in a statement ahead of the country's first birthday on Monday July 9.

With an escalation in fighting on the northern border regions between the two Sudans and rising food prices, children are in an increasingly malnourished state when they came to be treated at the few medical centres available, the ICRC added.

"In Malakal Teaching Hospital, there has been a dramatic rise in child malnutrition admissions over the past three months, since fighting escalated. Children are also arriving in a much worse condition," said Melker Mabeck, ICRC head of delegation in South Sudan.

South Sudan has an estimated 120 doctors and 100 nurses to treat a population close to nine million people, according to the country's ministry of health. This is 10 times lower than the patient to doctor ratio in neighbouring Kenya, according to the ICRC statement.

The country is also prone to diseases such as meningitis, measles, yellow fever, and whooping cough, all of which are endemic in many areas.

Preventable diseases such as malaria and acute respiratory infections are the leading causes of ill health. River blindness, sleeping sickness, and cholera are also common.

An estimated 50,000 people also suffer from long-term injuries linked to the armed conflict. Landmines, already common in the pre-independence armed conflict between the north and the south, are still used today, said the ICRC.

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