Author: BBC Media Action's Betty Duku, posted February 1 2017 - How local and national radio is supporting work to prevent cholera in South Sudan.

“I didn’t know it was cholera until a health professional at my local clinic told me” said Mary Jabe, a mother of three. “When he instructed me to take my children to hospital in Juba for treatment, I started to cry, because their condition was critical, and I didn’t have any money to get there.”

Mary lives with her family in a one-room hut, containing a single bed in Hai Kugi, a settlement on the outskirts of Juba, South Sudan. Outside, a dusty chair rests under the shadow of a small tree – and a short distance away, lie fragments of dried faeces, bleached white by the sun. Without a latrine – or a clean water source nearby, the homestead appeared to be an ideal environment for the spread of cholera – an infection causing severe diarrhoea, dehydration, and death if left untreated.

Luckily, a kind-hearted stranger lent Mary the money to travel to Juba where her children were able to receive treatment. Mary remembers rushing into Juba Teaching Hospital and doctors and nurses taking her children away in a flurry of medication and drips. “Thank God, I was able to see my children’s eyes again” she tells me, holding her youngest daughter tightly in her arms.

I’d been visiting Mary to interview her for Our Tukul, a national and local radio programme helping improve the health of mothers and their families. Mary’s story will be familiar to many people in South Sudan, a country which has seen 1,484 cholera cases and 25 deaths since an outbreak in August 2016. The situation has been exacerbated by ongoing conflict – forcing many to flee their homes into crowded temporary camps.

Information saves lives

In emergencies like this – information can save lives. Keen to combat cholera, my team produced a number of episodes of our radio programme Our Tukul, to help people identify the condition, treat it – and most importantly, prevent it.

In one of the episodes, a public health official, Doctor Makur Matur provides advice about washing hands with soap, drinking clean water, digging latrines, not defecating in open places, and making sure food is thoroughly warmed up before eating. “Cholera prevention is not just a job for the Ministry of Health” he tells listeners. “It’s everyone’s duty.”

Free treatment centres

The show is also raising awareness of free treatment centres in affected areas – and builds on previous work in South Sudan, training up local radio stations to produce simple, catchy public service announcements aimed at preventing cholera.

Since the New Year, I’m thankful that no new cholera cases have been reported. It has been a team effort, with Our Tukul playing a part in making sure this run of good health continues for as long as possible. As the old saying goes, prevention is much better than cure.

Click here to access this BBC Media Action blog and related links on their work in South Sudan. 

Image credit: BBC Media Action

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