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One million children in Southern Sudan protected against measles as campaign moves into Unity State

BENTIU, 16 June 2006 – A massive campaign to stop deadly outbreaks of measles in Southern Sudan has passed a key milestone.  Over one million children have been immunized since November 2005.  The Mass Measles Campaign is a joint effort by the Federal Ministry of Health of the Government of Southern Sudan, WHO and UNICEF targetting 4.5 million children under 15 across all ten states of Southern Sudan.  The rolling campaign has now begun in Unity State.

At a launch ceremony in Bentiu, the capital of Unity State, leaders applauded this milestone and urged partners, volunteers, community leaders and parents to keep up the momentum to complete the second million.  Vaccination teams are already on the ground in the area around Bentiu and aim to reach 46,500 children in the county by the end of June.

Speaking at the ceremony in Bentiu, the Director of UNICEF Southern Sudan, Simon Strachan said, “June 16 is the Day of the African Child, and we can celebrate the fact that one million Sudanese children are already safe from one of the most common killers in Southern Sudan.  But we need to keep pushing on to reach the goal of a measles-free Southern Sudan.”

“This is the biggest public health initiative ever mounted in Southern Sudan and we congratulate all involved on reaching the one million mark,” said Dr. Abdullahi Ahmed, head of office for WHO Southern Sudan.

Measles is a major killer in Southern Sudan, where immunization rates are very low due to the lack of health facilities.  During the long civil war, less than 20 per cent of children under five were immunized against measles.  Thousands died annually of the disease.  This mass campaign aims to reach at least 95 per cent of children from six months to 15 years of age.

“This campaign is a significant peace dividend to the children and indeed the whole of Southern Sudan,” said Dr. Majok Ajak, Undersecretary at the Ministry of Health of the Government of Southern Sudan.  “We have lost a great number of children to measles.  We can’t afford to lose any more.”
The benefits of the campaign go beyond immediate life-saving.  Training and capacity building of local health structures and personnel, as well as hardware and systems deployed for the campaign will give a major boost to routine immunization coverage in the South, ensuring that children throughout Southern Sudan can be protected from the range of vaccine-preventable diseases in the future.

Despite major logistical and security challenges, since November 2005 the campaign completed the vaccination of about 1.08 million children in 13 counties in the states of Western Equatoria, Eastern Equatoria, Central Equatoria, Northern Bahr el Ghazal, Jonglei and Lakes.
Major donors to the campaign include the US Centers for Disease Control, the UN Foundation and the governments of the United Kingdom, United States, Canada and Australia.

While most equipment and personnel are already on stream, urgent funding gaps remain for additional vaccines, social mobilization activities, cold chain equipment, transport and personnel costs.  An additional US$ 2,270,000 is required to complete the campaign.

For 60 years UNICEF has been the world’s leader for children, working on the ground in 155 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence.  The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS.  UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.

For more information, please contact:

Bismarck Swangin, UNICEF Southern Sudan, +882 2164 333 9905, bswangin@unicef.org
Adam Zenaw, WHO Southern Sudan, +882 2164 333 9021 adamzenaw@aol.com

Photos available upon request.




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