The World Health Organization (WHO) has reportedly sent a task force to investigate a mysterious disease outbreak that’s killed at least 89 people in South Sudan.
Last week, the ministry of health reported that an unknown disease had killed dozens of people in Fangak, Jonglei State, a part of South Sudan that’s recently been hit with severe flooding, BBC reports.
Cholera, a bacterial disease that can break out following flooding, has been ruled out, but the disease is yet to be identified by local scientists.
The WHO is yet to release a public statement, but one official said that scientists have been sent to the area via helicopter to investigate, adding that the group is waiting for transport to return them to the capital Juba on Wednesday.
"We decided to send a rapid response team to go and do risk assessment and investigation; that is when they will be able to collect samples from the sick people – but provisionally the figure that we got was that there were 89 deaths,” the WHO’s Sheila Baya told the BBC.
The United Nations (UN) has described the recent flooding in South Sudan as the worst in decades, affecting over 780,000 people. Along with fears of poverty and displacement, people are also worried about resurgences of water-borne diseases, including malaria and diarrheal diseases.
“Women, children, and elderly people arrived exhausted and hungry,” Arafat Jamal, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Representative in South Sudan, said at a briefing in October 2021.
“Some had not eaten in days. Others are marooned on islands surrounded by water, sheltering under trees, and unable to cross to safety. Women are deeply worried about the health of their children, with the increased risk of infections from deadly water-borne diseases.”
This is a developing story that will be updated when more information is available.