Reducing the risk of measles spread in South Sudan
In the morning hours of Thursday (19 January), Mr Adut Bullen Kot, brought his 3-year-old son to Yirol West County Hospital in Lakes state for measles vaccination. “I have seen a lot of children in the hospital suffering from measles. Today I brought my son to be vaccinated against measles because we must protect our children from the disease” said Mr Kot.
“Yirol West County is facing an outbreak of measles affecting children. Thanks to WHO, UNICEF and other partners for supporting the county to make sure children between the ages of 6 to 59 months are protected against measles, a highly infectious illnesses that can easily spread between unvaccinated children”, said Dr Riak Ammor Kulang, Medical Officer, Yirol West Hospital.
We mobilized community volunteers to raise awareness and to educate parents on the importance of the measles vaccination ahead of the reactive immunization campaign. As a result, the response and the number of children who were vaccinated is significantly high, Dr Kulang emphasized.
In December 2022, the Ministry of Health South Sudan declared an outbreak of measles. To date, 3581 suspected measles cases have been reported, including 41 deaths in the country. Across all the ten states laboratory confirmed outbreaks have been reported from 25 counties.
In South Sudan measles vaccination coverage rates have remained low and reached only 69 per cent in 2021, which is far below the target of 95 per cent of two doses of the measles containing vaccine.
Due to low vaccination coverage which was also contributed by COVID 19 pandemic and with conditions favorable for transmission of measles virus that include increased population displacement, disruption of healthcare service delivery and limited access to healthcare services, this outbreak could further exacerbate an already weak health system which is also battling malnutrition, flooding and malaria.
To interrupt the outbreak and protect the health of populace, the Ministry of Health with support from WHO, UNICEF and other partners is conducting a reactive vaccination campaign aimed at closing immunity gaps to stop the transmission of the virus.
“The risk of further spread of diseases is a major concern”, said Dr Aggrey Kaijuka Bategereza, Emergency Preparedness and Response Team Lead, WHO South Sudan. “An analysis of the current cases reported has shown that overall, 55.2 per cent of reported cases have no history of immunization, while the zero-dose rate for children under 5-years of age is 71 per cent. WHO and partners are working hard to stop the transmission”, said Dr Bategereza.
To get vaccines into the arms of children who remain unprotected, WHO with funding from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), continue to work closely with the Ministry of Health and partners to conduct reactive measles vaccination campaigns in 15 of the 22 affected counties targeting individuals surrounding cases to break transmission, heighten rapid detection and response to cases, increase immunization coverage including distribution of essential medicines to manage measles complications, said Dr Bategereza.
During the reactive vaccination campaign, the Ministry of health with support from WHO and partners vaccinated over 50 000 children against measles that can have serious complications in Lakes state.
Dr Sylvester Maleghemi, maleghemis [at] who.int
Mr Stephen Chol, garangs [at] who.int
Dr Diba Dulacha, dibad [at] who.int