Government leaders in Sudan are being criticised for downplaying the spread of an infection that is feared to be a cholera outbreak.
In the past 10 months, more than 300 deaths have been reported and nearly 17,000 cases registered of what the government calls acute diarrhoea.
“They were sick for only a day or two. We were told it was watery diarrhoea. Why are they just calling it diarrhoea? Many are getting infected and dying,” Osman Ahmed, a father who lost his wife and son, told Al Jazeera.
The local government in Khartoum says the infection came from refugees from neighbouring South Sudan, where cholera cases have been confirmed. Khartoum says it has contained the spread of infections at the border.
But some Sudanese fear infections could spiral out of control.
“We go house-to-house to tell people how to avoid the disease, give them soap and chlorinate their water,” Younis Ahmed, a volunteer health worker, said. “We had seven die in one day, in one neighbourhood, alone from this diarrhoea and we don’t want the numbers to rise.”
Economists estimate nearly half of the 40 million people in Sudan live below the poverty line.
Many lack access to clean water and proper sanitation, which doctors say makes it easier for infection to spread.
More than 200 cholera patients have reported to hospitals in Sudan’s North Darfur in the past two weeks, as the infections expand from the capital Khartoum to other parts of the country, a doctors committee said.
The Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors said on Saturday it expects an increase in the rate of cholera infections with the start of the rainy season.
“The epidemic has expanded westwards towards the states of Kordofan and Darfur. Especially at risk are the camps for displaced people,” the committee said in a report.
Heavy rains have been sweeping through camps, leaving the streets flooded and many families homeless since last month.