Reducing the risk of measles outbreaks in South Sudan

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On Thursday (19 January) morning, Mr Adut Bullen Kot brought his 3-year-old son to the Yirol West County Hospital in Lakes State for a measles vaccination. “I have seen many children suffering from measles in the hospital. Today I have brought my son to be vaccinated against measles because we must protect our children from this disease,” said Mr. Kot.

“Yirol West County is facing an outbreak of measles affecting children. Thanks to the World Health Organization, UNICEF and other partners for supporting the county to protect children aged 6 to 59 months from measles, a highly contagious disease that is easily transmitted to unvaccinated children,” Medical Officer Dr Riak Ammor Kulang said. Said. , Yirol West Hospital.

We mobilized community volunteers to raise awareness and educate parents about the importance of measles vaccination before the reactive vaccination campaign. As a result, the response and number of vaccinated children is significantly higher, Dr Kulang stressed.

In December 2022, South Sudan’s Ministry of Health declared a measles outbreak. So far, 3581 suspected measles cases including 41 deaths have been reported in the country. Confirmed outbreaks in all ten state laboratories have been reported from 25 counties.

In South Sudan, the measles vaccine coverage rate remains low and reached only 69 percent in 2021, far below the 95 percent target of two doses of measles vaccine.

Due to low vaccination coverage that was also contributed to by the COVID-19 pandemic, and conditions conducive to measles virus transmission, including increased population displacement, disruptions in health care delivery, and limited access to health services, this outbreak could further strain an already fragile health system. It is also fighting malnutrition, floods and malaria.

To prevent outbreaks and protect people’s health, the Ministry of Health, with the support of WHO, UNICEF and other partners, is conducting a reactive vaccination campaign aimed at blocking the lack of immunity to prevent the transmission of the virus.

“The risk of further spread of diseases is a major concern”, said Dr Agre Kaijuka Bategereza, head of the WHO South Sudan Emergency Preparedness and Response Team. “Analysis of recent reported cases showed that overall, 55.2 percent of those reported had no history of vaccination, while the zero-dose rate for children under 5 was 71 percent. WHO and partners are working hard to stop transmission,” said Dr Bategereza.

To get vaccines into the arms of vulnerable children, WHO, with support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), continues to work with ministries of health and partners to conduct reactive measles vaccination campaigns in 15 of the 22 affected areas. Counties are targeting people around cases to help break the spread, speed up detection and response to those infected, increase vaccination coverage, including distribution of essential drugs to manage measles complications, Dr Bategereza said.

During the reactive vaccination campaign, the Ministry of Health, with the support of WHO and partners, vaccinated more than 50,000 children in Lakes State against measles, which can cause serious complications.

Distributed by the APO Group on behalf of the World Health Organization (WHO) – South Sudan.

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