Rapid response contains Hepatitis A outbreak in Jordan camp

08 June 2011

June 2011
Irbid refugee camp, Jordan

Scene in campA rapid response from UNRWA has headed off an outbreak of Hepatitis A in a refugee camp in Irbid in northern Jordan.

An alarm from the local health centre to UNRWA’s disease control officer in Jordan, Dr Ali Odatallah, reported that a family of 12 was the likely source of 11 of the 17 cases reported. Most of the cases involved children at two schools.

A visit from UNRWA’s environment engineers found the family’s house in extremely poor condition – very dirty, with waste water exposed, the latrine broken and mould on walls from poor ventilation.

“We believed this to be the source of the outbreak,” said Dr Odatallah, “but we also had the two schools inspected to rule them out as suspects.”

Hygiene help

That same day, the school health team visited the family to advise on good hygiene practice. They also prepared the school staff to educate students on preventive measures such as hand washing and personal hygiene.

Early next morning, social worker Suad Abu-Alheija visited the home with the engineer and camp officer. She confirmed the squalid conditions endured by a family of 12 and that the family head was unemployed.

“I spoke strongly about hygiene essentials and arranged for the family to receive special hardship payments,” Suad said. “We also arranged for two daughters to register in career education at the women’s programme centre, and, with support from the engineer, organised for an unemployed son to attend a training centre.”

Acting on joint recommendations on the same day, the area chief Nidal Ahmad immediately released funds for sanitary works to begin.

Collaboration the key

Dr Ishtaiwi Abu-Zayed, chief of health in Jordan, said that the rapid and collaborative response had contained a communicable disease, rehabilitated a shelter, spread health education messages, and, most importantly, alleviated a dire situation for a family in abject poverty.

“It is a good example of how there must be an integrated response across UNRWA services where a family is experiencing multi-dimensional problems that can lead to a crisis,” he said.

All patients recovered well. UNRWA has continued to work closely with the Jordan government’s health directorate on assessment and control measures.

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Text by Jeff Fitzgibbon

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