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WHO, partners to visit Sudanese town for restoring health services


GENEVA/AGOK -- WHO with other key UN agencies will tomorrow make the first high-level international visit to Abyei since last weekend’s peace accord in the central west Sudanese town. The mission is to plan for the reconstruction of health facilities and other vital infrastructure in the town, as well as for the return of thousands of people displaced by more than five weeks of insecurity.

Fighting commenced in early May and forced Abyei’s population to flee to displacement camps and settlements in nearby areas, giving rise to numerous health risks. Most of Abyei’s inhabitants remain in Agok, Abathok, Awal, Wun-Peth and Malual Aleu, increasing strains on resources in host communities.

The main health risks facing the displaced are malnutrition and lack of access to safe drinking water. There is a high probability of communicable diseases breaking out due to various factors, including the low level of health coverage, overcrowding and poor sanitation in refugee settlements. The ongoing rainy season may cause a rise in acute watery diarrhoea, dysentery and malaria. Viral hemorrhagic fever is also a risk. Intensive primary health care efforts have kept these under control.

Following the signing of the Abyei Road Map Agreement, the international community together with the authorities have begun plans to reconstruct the town. WHO is concerned with ensuring the restoration of health services that had been lost during the fighting. Abyei had seven health centres and one hospital.

Tomorrow’s visit by seniors official of key UN agencies in Sudan will focus on the voluntary return of displaced people to Abyei and reconstruction, including that of its health facilities. Critical needs include medical devices, supplies and staff to rehabilitate health facilities. Other urgent needs include:

access to basic health services, including vaccination and nutrition
using mobile clinics and referral units to deliver services
surveillance to prevent and control communicable disease outbreaks.
In the camps outside Abeyi for the displaced people, health relief is being provided by WHO, the World Food Programme, UNICEF, the Ministry of Health and nongovernmental organizations. WHO has made available essential drugs and supplies in Southern Kordofan’s main town of Kadugli.

WHO also sent medical supplies last week that can treat 20 000 people for three months. These medicines and medical devices supplement a similar amount provided earlier. WHO has already distributed the supplies to 8000 people. A three-day polio campaign was conducted by the Ministry of Health and WHO last week in Twic county. A joint polio-measles campaign is now underway with UNICEF’s support.


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