Africa, Development & Aid, Headlines, Health

HEALTH-SUDAN: Meningitis Claim An Average Of 30 Lives A Day

Nhial Bol

KHARTOUM, Mar 2 1999 (IPS) - An outbreak of meningitis is claiming an average of 30 lives a day in the capital Khartoum, according to Sudanese health officials.

Dr Bashir Mukthar, a senior official at the ministry of health, told journalists this week that about 140 have died of the disease since the outbreak a month ago.

Unconfirmed reports, however, say the figure could be upwards of 1,000.

The death toll is high in the shanty towns in Khartoum where more than three million displaced from the civil war in southern Sudan live.

Door-to-door anti-meningitis vaccination campaign began in Khartoum last week. It is being coordinated by a group of police officers, students and non-governmental organisations (ngos).

The disease also has hit western Sudan’s northern Darfur state, on the border with Chad.

“About 100 persons died last week of meningitis in Al Fasher, the capital of northern Darfur state,” an official of the Sudan Council of Churches (SCC) told IPS by telephone this week.

Meningitis, an inflammation of the brain or the spinal cord due to infection by viruses or bacteria, is common in tropical zones.

The disease, which is sparked by high temperature and over crowding, causes an intense headache, fever, loss of appetite, intolerance to light and sound, rigidity of muscles, especially those in the neck.

The patient also suffers from a bout of severe convulsions, vomiting, and delirium leading to death.

According to health officials, the disease attacks persons between the age of two and 35. Unless rapidly diagnosed and treated, death can occur within a week, they warn.

Khartoum’s six million worried residents say the climate is not helping much. The meteorological department, which recorded an average temperature of 40 degree centigrade this week, has warned that the temperature will continue to rise.

Kosta Maleth, a state minister in eastern Sudan, on the border with Eritrea, issued a statement last week urging the population to avoid moving in the hot sun.

He also called upon the population to heed medical advise. “Allah (God) helps those who help themselves, please avoid crowded areas,” he said.

The meteorological department also says the temperatures in northern Sudan, along the border with Egypt, is high and will remain so for sometime.

The ministry of health last week appealed to ngos and officials of all the country’s 26 states to help in the campaign, which targets seven million people.

A major meeting to contain the spread of the disease will be held in Khartoum this week. It will be attended by UN World Health Organization (WHO), UN Children’s Fund (Unicef) and Doctors Without Borders (MSF-France).

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