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Controlling sleeping sickness

Sleeping sickness (otherwise known as Human African trypanosomiasis or HAT), spread by the bit of the tsetse fly, is present across wide swathes of Africa. It causes severe physical and neurological symptoms that are almost invariably fatal if left untreated. South Sudan, an extremely fragile state with a history of violent internal conflict, is amongst the countries most heavily affected by the disease. However, local health infrastructure faces an immense struggle to keep sleeping sickness under control.

Malteser International is working in cooperation with the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics (FIND), and the South Sudan Ministry of Health to improve testing, diagnosis, and treatment for sleeping sickness in the South Sudanese states of Eastern, Western, and Central Equatoria, where the disease is endemic. This involves upgrading and equipping health facilities, and offering training for health workers, and campaigns to raise awareness within local communities.

There were 117 cases of sleeping sickness reported in South Sudan in 2013, and 63 in 2014 – the fourth highest number in the world behind the Chad, the DRC, and the Central African Republic (WHO, 2014). The disease is particularly prevalent in the south and southwest of the country, near to its border with Uganda, the CAR and the DR Congo. In 2010 alone the disease was thought to be responsible for around 9,000 deaths around the world.

South Sudan, which gained independence from Sudan in 2011, is a territory with a long history of violent conflict. Hopes that independence would bring about a lasting peace were dashed with the outbreak of civil war in the country in 2013. Despite a ceasefire in August 2015, tension remains high, and violent clashes are not infrequent.

To sustainably intensify surveillance and control of sleeping sickness in South Sudan by introducing new screening and diagnostic tools and strategies. This includes:

  • Awareness campaign on the diagnosis and treatment of sleeping sickness
  • Initiating and improving services for diagnosis and Treatment
  • Mapping and characterization of health facilities
  • Upgrading and equipping health facilities, and training health personnel
  • Screening of patients with suspected sleeping sickness

Country info

Capital: Juba
Area: 644.329 km²
Population: c. 12 Millionen

Project data

Project duration: June 2014 until Decembre 2017
Donors: FIND
Partners: Ministry of Health South Sudan, FIND

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