Dr. Paul Spiegel with our partner United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) visited the UN Foundation last week to brief the Nothing But Nets team on the current difficulties facing refugees in South Sudan.
UNHCR aims to provide two life-saving bed nets for every family of five. One hurdle is that many people come from areas where malaria is not a major threat, so they do not have natural immunities to malaria or familiarity with using bed nets. Dr. Spiegel described these refugee camps as hyper-endemic for malaria. “Nets are incredibly important,” he said.
The mosquitoes that cause malaria only bite at night, so malaria is easily preventable with nets. With just $10, you can protect a family in a refugee camp from malaria with a life-saving bed net.
“We know that deaths due to malaria are going to dramatically increase now due to the rainy season,” Spiegel said, adding that cholera, diarrhea, and measles also pose serious health risks. The remoteness of these encampments and South Sudan’s lack of infrastructure such as paved roads make providing food, water, shelter, sanitation, bed nets, and other life-saving aid extremely challenging.
Dr. Spiegel explained how nearly 160,000 refugees live in three to four camps in South Sudan. Some have fled violence in neighboring Sudan, and others are returning to their homeland. Thousands more continue to stream into the country exhausted and weak. They must grapple with malnutrition, severe water shortages and a dangerous rainy season that causes flooding and creates prime breeding conditions for the mosquitoes that spread malaria. This July, 400 cases of malaria were reported in Doro and Yusuf Batil camps in South Sudan near the border with Sudan.