News / Africa

South Sudan: Worst Kala Azar Outbreak in 8 Years


Joe DeCapua

A medical aid group says as south Sudan nears a referendum on independence, it faces many serious health problems.

Doctors Without Borders, also known as MSF, says south Sudan is currently experiencing the largest outbreak of kala azar in eight years.  The parasitic disease is transmitted by the bite of sand flies and attacks internal organs, such as the liver and spleen.  The disease is often fatal if untreated.

Nurse Jane Boggini, who works in Malakal in Upper Nile state, says, “This year…we’re seeing an extremely high number of cases.  We have within our Doctors Without Borders treatment sites…treated over 2,300 patients.”

That compares to a few hundred cases at this time last year.   Boggini says there could be several reasons for the increase, including high rates of malnutrition.

“Our nutritional programs have seen a 50 percent increase in the number of children.  So we have children who are in a weaker state than before.  We also have people who are returning from the north.  They’re coming back … and these are people who have not been exposed to kala azar in the past.  So, possibly that’s another reason,” she says.


Children and the elderly are most vulnerable to the disease.  Doctors Without Borders uses several different treatment methods.  One is a drug that must be administered daily for 30 days.

“In other words, patients have to stay close to the treatment center,” she says, adding, “It’s quite painful.  So they have to come and leave their villages.  They have to stay near the health center and that means disruptions for the family. They have to leave their children behind.”

When treatment is given in a hospital for more serious cases, two medications are administered, one by IV or intravenously.  However, she says, “The medication has to be refrigerated.  Now this means we can’t use it in these outlying areas because there is no electricity.”

There is also a two drug combination that the medical aid group uses for kala azar, which can shorten treatment to 17 days.

Besides the parasite disease, MSF says there are a high number of malaria and diarrheal cases in south Sudan.  And at certain times of the year there is a rise in respiratory infections.

Logistics and supplies

Boggini says it can be difficult to access those in need in rural areas, just as it is difficult for sick people to reach clinics.  “That’s probably the biggest problem we have,” she says.

All the medicals supplies must be flown in.  She says, “It’s a large logistical problem working here.”

Doctors Without Borders has been working in Sudan since 1979, with 27 projects in 13 states.

You May Like

Video Russia’s Syrian Escalation Tests Obama’s Crisis Response

Critics once again question whether president has been slow to act on Syrian conflict, thus creating opening for powers like Russia More

Ancient African DNA Shows Mass Migration Back Into Africa

First genetic analysis of ancient human remains in Africa suggests massive migration from north around time of Egyptian empire More

NASA: Pluto Has Blue Sky

New photos also reveal the presence of water ice More

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugeesi
Henry Ridgwell
October 08, 2015 8:02 PM
Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

VOA Blogs