March 31, 2006

Millions at risk in Sudan as diseases rage: WHO

GENEVA (Reuters) - Millions of people are at risk from
deadly diseases such as cholera and meningitis in Sudan, the
World Health Organization (WHO) warned on Friday, appealing for
funds urgently to combat major outbreaks.

"A significant increase in disease incidence and in
preventable deaths is expected unless the shortfall of $24
million in funds for health are provided immediately," said Ala
Din Alwan, WHO's representative for health action in crises.

The United Nations agency, in a statement, predicted
"adverse consequences for the health of millions of people
throughout Sudan" unless funds were secured for its 20

"Over the last six months, Sudan has experienced major
outbreaks of epidemic diseases such as acute watery diarrhea
and cholera, dengue, yellow fever, monkey pox and meningitis,
placing additional strains on already stretched health care
services," it said.

Meningitis, which has struck at least 1,335 people in 15 of
Sudan's 25 states, is likely to spread further due to the lack
of essential drugs and vaccinations, it said. An infection of
the lining that surrounds the brain and spinal cord, it is
spread by sneezing, coughing and living in close quarters.

An outbreak of acute watery diarrhea has affected nearly
9,400 people in seven of the 10 states in southern Sudan,
causing 248 deaths, WHO said.

Cases of acute watery diarrhea were being reported daily in
new locations, it added.

It was not clear how many of these cases were cholera, a
water-borne disease which causes vomiting and acute diarrhea
that can lead to dehydration and death within 24 hours if not
treated swiftly.