Juba, 05 October 2017: Immunization has made a significant impact on the health of the people of South Sudan, with services reaching and protecting even the most marginalized and vulnerable populations.
To improve the contribution of immunization to child survival and determine strategic directions for the new country Multi Year Plan (2017 – 2021), WHO collaborated with the Ministry of Health (MoH) and partners to review the current capacities of the immunization and surveillance system to identify and respond to gaps and challenges from 25 September to 5 October 2017 in Juba.
The MoH, along with WHO, UNICEF, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, John Snow Inc (JSI) and Core Group among others reviewed the management systems of the Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI) and surveillance program; the immunization financing situation; the organization and the implementation of acute flaccid paralysis (AFP) surveillance system, at all levels;including the laboratory capacity; human resources capacities and skills; and the strength and weaknesses of the EPI and surveillance data management system.
“Identifying innovative strategies to address the systemic gaps in human resources, service delivery and integrated diseases surveillance as well as data management is crucial in building a reserved capacity for resilience of the entire health system for South Sudan. The review has highlighted the need for more flexible policy options required of partners to respond to the wider needs of immunization for women and children”, said Mr Kofi Boateng, WHO EPI Focal Point.
During the 10 day external review, members of the team, led by the external experts assessed the country’s effectiveness and efficiency of the EPI program components as well as identified best practices at different levels visited for potential scaleup to improving Immunization coveragse. In total the team visited seven state hubs, eight Counties, 17 Health facilities including two Protection of Civilian (PoCs) sites.
Dr Sylvester Maleghemi, WHO Polio Eradication Initiative Focal Point, commended the MoH’s commitment to prioritize the implementation of the Global Vaccine Action Plan, and the Polio Endgame Strategy. He also added that the program in South Sudan maintains its focus on providing high quality immunization services to avert illness, disability and death caused by vaccine preventable diseases, and maintaining the country’s polio free status.
The findings from the review will be translated to a work-plan accompanied by a more detailed plan for monitoring progress toward the ultimate objectives.
“The EPI surveillance external review has been a timely exercise and the findings have highlighted the strengths and gaps not only in the immunization and surveillance programme but has also encompassed the challenges faced in the health system” said Dr Samson Paul Baba, Special Advisor to the Minister of Health. The recommendations can be used not only to improve immunization coverage, but also can be leveraged to strengthen the health system in South Sudan. The MoH will ensure that the recommendations from the review would be acted upon and would be monitored as per agreed timeline, Dr Baba emphasized.
“The comprehensive surveillance system guides priority setting, planning and monitoring, as well as resource allocation for national immunization programmes,” said Mr Evans Liyosi, WHO Representative a.i. to South Sudan. WHO is committed to support the MoH to strengthen South Sudan’s case-based surveillance and outbreak response for diseases such as measles, as well as improving capacity for other vaccine-preventable disease surveillance.
Immunization is one of the most cost-effective and powerful public health interventions. The introduction and widespread use of vaccines around the world has led to global eradication of smallpox and near-eradication of polio.
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