WHO scales up cholera response with 500 000 doses of oral cholera vaccine for vaccination campaign in South Sudan

Juba, South Sudan, 19 July 2017: The World Health Organization (WHO) received 500 000 doses of oral cholera vaccine (OCV) on 17 July 2017. WHO is working with the Republic of South Sudan’s Ministry of Health and partners to scale up cholera vaccination campaign from 28 July to 3 August 2017. 

Cumulatively, a total of 17 785 cholera cases including 320 (CFR 1.8%) deaths have been reported from 24 counties in South Sudan since the outbreak in June 2106.

“Cholera is endemic in South Sudan and historically, outbreaks have occurred along major commercial routes and rivers in the dry season as well as during the rainy season,” said Dr Joseph Wamala, WHO Epidemiologist. “South Sudan has suffered from several major cholera outbreaks in the last four years. Following other successful oral cholera vaccine campaigns, WHO and partners can make a real difference in controlling the outbreak in Tonj and Kapoeta states and in other parts of the country.”

The use of the OCV is one of the strategies available to prevent and combat outbreaks. At the same time, South Sudan is implementing the integrated approach for cholera control. The strategy harnesses strategies for improving access to patient care, surveillance, social mobilisation, water, sanitation and hygiene, and use of oral cholera vaccines. 

South Sudan recently requested OCV to complement the current response in areas with active cholera transmission. The country has developed extensive experience in deploying OCV to prevent cholera in endemic areas and to interrupt transmission for ongoing outbreaks. As a result of these integrated and comprehensive strategies, especially with deployment of OCV, cholera transmission in Bor, Mingkaman, Duk, Ayod, Bentiu, Leer, Aburoc, Malakal Town, and several other areas has been controlled.

A planned OCV campaign is scheduled to take place 28 July to 3 August, 2017 in four selected counties with high active transmission. These include Tonj East, Kapoeta South, Kapoeta North and Kapoeta East counties. In Tonj East, the surrounding payams will be targeted to limit further spread of the outbreak. WHO jointly with the Health Cluster, UNICEF and MSF-CH facilitated a training of over 26 supervisors drawn from the Ministry of Health and partners to oversee the OCV campaign in the above mentioned counties. County level cascade trainings are slated for 25-26 July 2017. 

With some 6 million people in South Sudan facing starvation, WHO and partners have been responding across the country, particularly in places facing famine, food insecurity and disease outbreaks. 

Furthermore, food insecurity is putting people at increased risk of starvation and malnutrition, which will further contribute to the risk of spread of the cholera outbreak in South Sudan. Drought has also led to the drying of water points in some regions leading to the population using contaminated water from the remaining few unprotected points leading to repeated outbreaks of water-borne diseases including cholera. 

Many countries and partners have introduced OCVs as part of their cholera control programs in endemic and epidemic settings. Currently, the International Coordinating Group manages the global stockpile for emergency use of OCV.

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