The United Nations said in a statement Friday that at least 29 people, including 6 children below the age of five, have died and thousands more are at risk of infection due to a cholera outbreak in South Sudan. By the end of June, 484 cases of cholera were recorded, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) said.
"Up to 5,000 children under age five are at risk of dying from cholera unless urgent action is taken to contain this threat," the U.N. agency said in the statement, according to Agence France-Presse (AFP), adding: "Cholera is particularly dangerous for young children as it causes rapid and severe dehydration due to excessive diarrhea and vomiting."
The country had declared the outbreak on June 23 after the death toll reached 18. The diarrheal disease is suspected to have started early June in crowded U.N. bases in the capital of South Sudan, Juba. Last year, at least 167 people died due to cholera in the country, but the spread was later contained.
The disease generally spreads through water or food containing contaminated fecal matter, AFP reported. According to U.N. estimates, about 4.5 million people face food insecurity in the country, which is grappling with severe poverty.
South Sudan is also currently engaged in a civil war. Its political troubles started in December 2013 after President Salva Kiir accused his former deputy Riek Machar of plotting a coup. The accusation led to a series of retaliatory killings in the country. Since then, over 140,000 people have sought shelter in U.N. camps, according to AFP.