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Cholera Outbreak Suspected in Beleaguered South Sudan

FILE - A South Sudanese baby suffering from cholera is being attended by medics in Juba Teaching Hospital, May 27, 2014.

Dozens of people have fallen ill with suspected cholera in South Sudan, a nation already beseiged by civil unrest, the United Nations said.

UNICEF said the main hospital in Juba, admitted 69 new cases Wednesday, bringing the total number of people being treated in the capital to 112. Nationwide, there were 141 suspected cholera cases, with six reported deaths. This was down from an earlier report of 11 deaths.

In collaboration with the Ministry of Health and partner agencies, UNICEF is providing medical supplies, sanitation services and community awareness.

One suspected case came from inside a U.N. base in Juba, raising fears that it could spread among the 4,000 people sheltering there from fighting this month between opposing army factions.

South Sudan's civil war displaced some 28,000 people in Juba after fighting began in late 2013, and renewed fighting last week caused more upheaval, with 15,000 people taking shelter in U.N., aid organization, church and other compounds.

Last year, 47 people died in South Sudan in a cholera outbreak, and 167 died from the disease in 2014.

Cholera is a gastrointestinal disease, usually spread by contaminated water and food, and can cause severe diarrhea that, in extreme cases, can lead to fatal dehydration and kidney failure within hours.