Mortality in Darfur down but health 'extremely fragile' – UN-backed survey
The mortality rate in the troubled Darfur region of Sudan has declined significantly, but the health of the population remains "extremely fragile," according to a new survey undertaken by the Ministry of Health of the Government of Sudan (GOS), United Nations agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
"Major progress has been made by the humanitarian community and GOS in Darfur. However, we must not allow the situation to slide back," said the UN Humanitarian Coordinator Manuel Aranda Da Silva, who commissioned the survey, which found that traumatic injury, meningitis and diarrhoea remained major causes of death.
Over 70 people, including local and international epidemiologists, carried out the survey from mid-May to mid-June, interviewing more than 3,000 families or about 26,000 people affected by the conflict between the Government, rebels and militias in the three states of Darfur.
The researchers found a death rate of around 0.8 per 10,000 people per day, which is below the international crisis threshold of 1 death per 10,000 per day – three times lower than the previous survey.
"The mortality survey bears evidence of the heroic efforts of humanitarian workers, Sudanese and international, under extremely difficult conditions in Darfur," UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland said. "Tens of thousands of lives have been saved thanks to their work. But I am extremely concerned that the space for impartial humanitarian work is closing. Both the Government and the rebel movements must do much more to protect and promote our work."
Due to a successful measles vaccination campaign, that disease claimed relatively few lives during the period surveyed. However, the next campaigned, planned for July, must be implemented to keep the illness down.
In addition, water and sanitation assistance needed to be increased as a matter of priority to keep diarrhoea, which causes around 50 per cent of child deaths, and other diseases at bay during the coming season.
"Deaths due to malaria could rise" in particular, warned Mr. Da Silva. "The rainy season is approaching and preparedness for malaria control needs to be stepped up urgently," he said.