Uganda steps up border screening amid South Sudan cholera outbreak

Uganda steps up border screening amid South Sudan cholera outbreak

Amuru, Uganda | By Michael Wandati | Amuru district has intensified the compulsory screening of individuals entering Uganda through the Elegu border from South Sudan due to a cholera outbreak.

This decision follows the identification of four Sudanese asylum seekers, who entered the country via Elegu on January 26, testing positive for cholera.

These individuals were among 14 asylum seekers fleeing the ongoing conflict in Sudan’s capital, Khartoum. Among the confirmed cases, four and nine other contacts were admitted to Nyumanzi Health Center III in Adjumani district.

Louis Patrick Lamot, the port health focal point person at the Elegu border, explained in an interview that while routine screening has been in place, there is now a heightened level of vigilance in response to the confirmed cholera cases.

Lamot highlighted the increased influx of asylum seekers from Sudan and South Sudan, prompting the necessity for enhanced vigilance at the border point.

He mentioned that they screen 50-100 Sudanese asylum seekers daily, alluding to the urgency in addressing the violence-driven migration from certain areas in Sudan.

“Screening is ongoing every day and that’s why we have been able to detect some cases. Apart from cholera, we are screening for other cases like suspected measles and TB, a lot is happening now,” said Lamot.

Lamot mentions that they’ve received 100 consignments of Rapid Diagnostic Test (RDT) kits to enhance the testing of suspected cholera cases at the border. Simultaneously, the Health Ministry has allocated 100 test kits to the health department in Adjumani district.

Dr. Alfred Okello, the Amuru District Health Officer (DHO), acknowledges that despite the district’s commitment to screening everyone at the border, a significant obstacle persists in the form of a manpower shortage, hampering their efforts.

“We don’t have enough personnel to help in the screening and fight against cholera. At the moment we are improvising with the few staff, but we are also glad some partners are helping us,” Okello said.

Medical personnel have not reported any new or suspected cholera cases, and the 12 patients undergoing treatment in Adjumani district were discharged.

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Apollo Kagwa Okello, the secretary for health in Amuru district local government, mentioned the reactivation of the task force initially handling the COVID-19 pandemic for sensitization and monitoring.

The district is also launching an extensive awareness campaign to educate the community on proper hygiene practices to combat cholera.

In 2016, a cholera outbreak in Amuru district resulted in two fatalities and infected over 40 individuals in Atiak sub-county. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), cholera is an acute diarrheal infection caused by the ingestion of contaminated food or water containing the bacterium Vibrio cholera.