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Sudan prohibits use of the term 'cholera' as hundreds die of disease Open in fullscreen

Robert Cusack

Sudan prohibits use of the term 'cholera' as hundreds die of disease

The disease has spread across the east of Africa due to poor water infrastructure [AFP]

Date of publication: 12 June, 2017

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The Sudanese authorities have been preventing awareness campaigns for the deadly water-borne disease, banning the use of the word cholera and putting thousands of lives at risk.

Sudan's Ministry of Health has been suppressing reporting on an epidemic of cholera for the last month, arresting those who try to raise awareness of the disease.

The UN cannot officially refer to the outbreak as cholera due to a lack of official testing and is currently reporting the disease as "acute water diarrhoea" (AWD), it has emerged.

The Sudanese Doctors Union and the National Epidemiological Corporation have called on the government to act swiftly following an increase in outbreaks - especially in the country's capital, Khartoum.

On 1 June, Sudan's health minister, Bahr Idriss Abu Garda, told parliament that 292 people had died of AWD and 14,659 people were reported infected between August 2016 and May 2017.

Yet the government appears more concerned in fighting the reporting of the epidemic than the cause of the disease itself.

The director of the Omdurman Emergency Hospital in Darfur, Dr Hussein Aker, was fired earlier this week after he used the word cholera, instead of the government's preferred term, AWD.

Authorities also arrested the journalist, Ammar al-Daw, correspondent for al-Gedaref at al-Sayha news on Monday, after he reported on the spread of the disease.

Daw was charged with defamation for "publishing materials related to the watery diarrhoea", Dabanga News reported.

Three members of the Sudanese Congress Party were also arrested on Wednesday for organising cholera awareness campaigns in Khartoum.

Cholera spreads through contaminated water or food – and experts blame the government for a lack of sufficient water infrastructure, causing the epidemic.

"Refugees are being driven from their homes and are arriving to temporary settlements en masse, creating perfect conditions for the disease to spread," said Michelle Gayer, emergency health director at the International Rescue Committee.

"Cholera will come to kick you while you are down, and can spread to disastrous levels if not addressed immediately."

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