The Ugandan government cautions its citizens traveling to Juba over a cholera outbreak there.
By John Agaba
KAMPALA - The Ugandan government has said it can’t issue travel bans across the Uganda-South Sudan border, following an outbreak of cholera in the war-torn country’s capital Juba.
News agency AFP reported Tuesday that at least 18 people have died of the highly contagious infection in the world’s youngest nation, with the health ministry declaring an outbreak of the infection.
It quoted health minister Riek Gai Kok as telling reporters that 171 cholera cases had been confirmed in the outbreak, which began in “crowded United Nations bases” in Juba and spread elsewhere in the city.
However, the Ugandan government said it can’t issue travel bans (on traders to and from Juba), as the threat posed by the infection didn’t warrant one.
However, the government called on Ugandans going to Juba to be cautious and to observe proper hygiene practices and not to eat food or take water contaminated with feaces.
“We are at threat because our borders are porous. But the district task force teams will heighten surveillance.
“We can’t issue travel bans. If the infection spreads to Uganda, that is when our national task force can come in to verify the magnitude of the problem,” said Rukia Nakamatte, the health ministry’s publicist.
Cholera, just like dysentery, spreads mainly through eating food and taking water contaminated with feaces.
After a short incubation period of two to five days, the cholera disease causes severe diarrhoea, draining the body of water. The dramatic loss of fluid is often fatal if untreated.
December 22, 2013: People gather at a makeshift IDP camp at the United Nations Mission in Juba
AFP reported that tens of thousands of people have sought shelter in the UN camps during 18 months of civil war in South Sudan. At least 167 people died with over 6,400 cases reported in an outbreak last year, which was later contained.
“After subjecting cases to laboratory tests it was confirmed that there is a cholera outbreak,” Riek Gai Kok said to AFP, adding that the first case recorded was on June 1.
Uganda has had its share of the water-borne infection, with the latest outbreak killing four people in Kasese district in 2012.
Riek Gai Kok said that stamping out the outbreak that has begun spreading to neighboring capital suburbs posed an additional major challenge for the government and aid workers in South Sudan.
More than two million people have been forced to flee during the war, with over 137,000 civilians sheltering in UN peacekeeping bases, including over 34,000 civilians crammed into camps in the capital alone.
Two-thirds of the country’s 12 million people need aid, with 4.5 million people facing severe food insecurity, according to the UN.
Civil war in South Sudan began in December 2013 when President Salva Kiir accused his former deputy Riek Machar of planning a coup, setting off a cycle of retaliatory killings that has split the poverty-stricken, landlocked country along ethnic lines.
Ugandan traders to Juba cautioned over cholera