An outbreak of cholera in South Sudan has killed 23 people and infected at least 670, aid officials said Tuesday, warning the outbreak of the deadly disease could still get worse.
The cases, all in the capital Juba, have raised fears for tens of thousands of people who have sought refuge at UN bases from a wave of ethnic violence triggered by a civil war between President Salva Kiir and rebels loyal to former vice president Riek Machar.
"So far as of yesterday we have over 670 cases that have received treatment. Out of that 23 people have died from cholera," Abdinasir Abubakar of the World Health Organisation told reporters.
More suspected and unconfirmed cases have also been detected in other parts of the country, including in Jonglei, Lakes and Upper Nile states, he warned.
"We are still at the early stage of the outbreak," Abubakar said.
A spokeswoman for the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), Ariane Quentier, said the UN was moving displaced people to other sites to reduce the risk of an outbreak in the cramped main Tomping base in Juba.
Heavy rains are sweeping the impoverished country, hampering aid efforts and potentially exacerbating the spread of the disease.
Cholera is transmitted through drinking water or eating food contaminated with faeces or dirty hands.
After a short incubation period of two to five days, the disease causes severe diarrhoea, draining the body of its water. The sudden and dramatic loss of fluid is often fatal.
The UN and aid workers have warned of a growing humanitarian crisis in the young nation, including the risk of famine if rebel and government forces continue to fight.