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By: Emile Dawisha

WORLD MALARIA DAY: Urgent Action Needed to Prevent Malaria Outbreaks in Refugee Camps Along the Ethiopia-South Sudan Border

April 24, 2024
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“As the world’s attention is drawn elsewhere, the people of South Sudan are enduring unimaginable hardship, grappling with ongoing conflict, mass displacement, the ravages of climate change, and an exorbitant cost of living.” — UN Asst. Secretary-General Shoko Noda. 

To commemorate World Malaria Day (April 25), all month long we are raising funds to provide urgent malaria prevention and treatment to South Sudanese refugees in Ethiopia’s Gambella region. The scale of the humanitarian crisis in South Sudan is staggering: in a country of 12 million people, nine million South Sudanese are in need of humanitarian assistance, seven million are facing crisis-level hunger come lean season, and 4.5 million have been forced to flee their homes. Africa’s worst displacement crisis has placed a tremendous strain on refugee settlements in neighboring countries. Below is a map (source: UN Refugee Agency/UNHCR) showing the flow of South Sudanese refugees into neighboring countries, as of March 31, 2024.



Ethiopia’s Gambella region is home to nearly 400,000 South Sudanese refugees living in seven camps, a population that almost outnumbers the locals. Over 60% of these refugees are under the age of 18. Many refugee families in Gambella lack proper tents and consistent access to food, clean water and medicine. In recent years, the worsening crisis in South Sudan has contributed to over-crowding and service gaps — with grave consequences.

The most deadly threat in Gambella is malaria, which is responsible for 31% of under-five mortality and 24% of total mortality, per UNHCR. Since 2018, the region has lacked funding to conduct consistent mosquito control efforts and has gone several years between mosquito net distributions. As a result, malaria rates have increased steadily from 2018 to 2022.

All seven of the refugee camps are experiencing severe shortages of tools, including diagnostic kits and medications, needed to prevent, test, and treat malaria, per UNHCR.

(Top left) South Sudan refugees cross the Baro river, the border between South Sudan and Ethiopia. Crossing the river means that they have reached the refugee entry point in Gambella. (Top right) A teacher instructs his pupils in one of Gambella’s makeshift classrooms. (Bottom) A group of volunteers work to improve sanitation conditions in their camp, a key contributor to high rates of malaria and water-borne diseases in Gambella. Photos courtesy of UNICEF.



United to Beat Malaria and our UN partners are supporting malaria control efforts in Gambella’s refugee camps by providing anti-malarial treatments and diagnostics to test and treat 69,000 refugees; and operational support for an indoor residual spraying campaign that will protect over 330,000 camp residents.

Here’s how you can help. Tomorrow (April 25) is World Malaria Day, and we have launched a World Malaria Day campaign to raise funds to support our work in Gambella.


Throughout April, all donations up to $100,000 will be matched! Don’t miss your chance to take action this World Malaria Day and double your donation to much-needed malaria programs in Gambella.

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