The Sudanese Government and aid agencies are making progress in their attempts to halt the spread of mosquito-borne yellow fever and immunize 6 million people in Darfur, despite funding and logistical challenges.
More than 700 people contracted the disease and 165 have died in what the World Health Organization (WHO) says is the worst outbreak of the disease since at least 1990.
“The spread of the disease shows no signs of stopping,” according to the Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator in Sudan, Ali Al-Za’tari. He said the only way to contain the outbreak was to ensure that all people at risk were vaccinated.
Funding from the OCHA-managed Central Emergency Response Fund and other donors helped kick-start a massive immunization campaign on 20 November. Although 3.7 million vaccines have been purchased and 1.3 million people have been immunized, WHO estimates that US$1.9 million is needed for an additional 2.2 million doses.
In Central Darfur state—the worst affected by the outbreak—delivering vaccines remains difficult; humanitarian organizations have been unable to reach remote and often dangerous areas, such as Rokeroin Jebel Marra.
Dr. Abdullah Hay Abdullah, the Director of Golo Hospital in Central Darfur, describes himself as the only doctor in the only hospital in the Rokero area, which has a population of over 105,000. To collect yellow fever vaccines, he has to travel 50km by donkey to Nertiti, the nearest town with larger medical facilities. “It takes nearly 12 hours by donkey, but there is no alternative,” he said.
There is no specific treatment for yellow fever, but through treating symptoms, health workers like Dr. Abdullah have managed to reduce the death rate in Darfur from 40 per cent when the outbreak began in October to 22 per cent today.
The UN and humanitarian partners are working with the Ministry of Health to lower this rate further through preventative measures, vector control, improved case management and increased public awareness.