Kala azar spreads in Sudan10th November 2009
The deadly kala azar disease, which is native to the world's tropics, is spreading rapidly among the population of southern Sudan.
In the remote Upper Nile region, as well as in Jonglei, more than 380 people have been treated for the disease since October, and the infection rate of the disease rose by several hundred percent since last year.
David Kidinda, medical coordinator for Medecins Sans Frontiers (MSF) in southern Sudan, said that his organisation suspects that the number of kala azar patients reaching clinics is just the tip of the iceberg.
Symptoms of the disease include fever, diarrhoea, vomiting, nosebleeds, a swollen spleen, and jaundice.
He said that people who are infected with kala azar can die within weeks if their immune system is already weakened, if they do not receive treatment.
Kala azar, also known as visceral leishmaniasis, is endemic in some southern parts of Sudan, where the disease is transmitted by a type of sandfly.
Most sufferers die within the first four months of contracting the disease, if they are left untreated.
If they are treated in time, most can also recover.
The medical staff at Malakal hospital in the Upper Nile region said that there is an outbreak of the disease, and that they are concerned there may be more yet to come.
Kidinda said that, in southern Sudan, almost three quarters of the population have no access to even the most basic health care.
MSF said that outbreaks of kala azar tend to happen every 5 to 10 years, and that the disease leaves peoples' immune systems weakened.
Kidinda said that, with all the barriers facing people in southern Sudan, it is difficult for people to survive.
Ethnic conflicts over land in southern Sudan, a region of the country rich with oil, currently claim the lives of more people per month than in the western region of Darfur.
250,000 people have been displaced by the conflicts, and 2,000 people have died so far.
Southern Sudan is now semi-autonomous, and a referendum for its independence is scheduled to take place in 2011.
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