Malaria season has started in South Sudan and the rate of infection is climbing daily. And at the Adol Primary Health Care Centre in the county of Rumbek East, where beds are in short supply, patients are now bedding down under mango trees.
There they lie, with medical equipment hanging in the branches above them. Often staff have to tell the patients to bring their own mattresses too.
Most cases of malaria are reported in May and June; on June 16 alone, 49 cases of malaria were reported. And most of them were children or pregnant women, Peter Kau Mayek, manager of the clinic reports.
We admitted over 200 patients in May.”
The rate of malarial infection is serious,” Mayek says. We admitted over 200 patients in May and the number is expected to increase in June and July.”
The big problems in this area include environments that encourage malaria-carrying mosquitoes to breed and a lack of treated mosquito nets. The rate of re-infection is also high, Mayek notes, and this is due partially to the fact that patients often don’t finish a whole course of anti-malarial medication as prescribed.
Everyday there’s more malaria,” lamented Yar Machiek a former patient whose daughter was admitted. Why can’t we get rid of it for good? I was released from here two days ago with my other daughter. But today this daughter has had to be admitted.”
Another potential issue is the preponderance of counterfeit malaria drugs. Research indicates that almost a third of these drugs are either counterfeit or of poor quality.
In May, the BBC reported the findings of a study which found there are insufficient facilities to monitor the quality of anti-malarial drugs and poor consumer and health-worker knowledge about the therapies. And there is a lack of regulatory oversight of manufacturing and little punitive action for counterfeiters.”
Also read: The hidden cost of malaria in South Sudan: $2 million and counting
by Esther Muwombi | in EconomicsAll of which leads to increasing rates of infection in countries like South Sudan. Mayom Majak Majok, a nurse at the Adol health care centre, says that they have no other option but to admit the surplus patients to wards” under the tree.
When it rains, he says, the patients have to run for shelter. Often they all crowd into one ward. When the rain stops, they return to their outdoor beds.
We do not have beds,” Majok says. So we tell the patients to come with his or her own mattress when they are admitted.”
Asked whether the local authorities could help somehow, the Lakes State’s Minister of Health, Daniel Gumwel Nhomabur, said that there was not much they could do presently, due to austerity measures in South Sudan.
My priority as the new Minister of Health is to improve the state hospital and all the primary health care centres in the state,” Nhomabur explains. But austerity measures are having an adverse effect on those ambitions.”