WHO dispatched rapid response team to South Sudan to assess mysterious illness killing 89

The area has been experiencing devastating flooding that brings about an increase in waterborne illness
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World Health Organization headquarters
World Health Organization headquarters
(FABRICE COFFRINI/Getty)

The World Health Organization has sent a rapid response team to South Sudan where a mysterious illness has left at least 89 people dead. 

Scientists have yet to identify a fast-spreading disease in the northern town of Fangak. The region has recently been severe flooded, though initial samples returned negative for cholera.

Because of the flooding, the emergency dispatch team had to reach the region via helicopter and is still waiting for transport to the capital of Juba.

Lam Tungwar Kueigwong, the minister of land, says the severe flooding, for the third straight year, has increased the spread of diseases like malaria, in addition to causing a sharp uptick in malnutrition rates in children due to food shortages. 

In addition, oil from the fields in the region has reportedly contaminated the area's water source, killing many domestic animals.

The international charity Doctors Without Borders, which has a presence in the area, is placing dangerous pressure on the fragile health facilities in the area.

One hospital employee told The Sun that the number of children admitted to the area hospital with severe malnutrition has doubled since the flooding began. 

The WHO team was sent to assess risk levels and conduct an investigation into the origin of the disease.

Humanitarian agencies, including the United Nations, have warned that the flooding is likely to continue causing outbreaks in waterborne diseases and malaria, which lead directly to food shortages in the decade-old country that is almost entirely dependent upon international food aid.