Juba, 4 February 2020 – With the aim of vaccinating 2.5 million children against measles, a nationwide vaccination campaign is kicked off today. The campaign is a cooperation between the Ministry of Health, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF and other partners. In addition to the vaccine, the children will also receive vitamin A supplement and deworming tablets.
The campaign is essential for children’s health in South Sudan, as the country is still battling an unprecedented measles outbreak with close to 4,500 confirmed cases and 43 deaths. Vaccination is the most effective way to protect children against this very contagious disease. Vitamin A and deworming are crucial for children’s immune system and ability to fight diseases in addition to prevent blindness.
“We need to boost the vaccination coverage to protect children against measles outbreaks”, said Dr Makur Matur Kariom, Undersecretary, Ministry of Health. “Unfortunately, in South Sudan routine vaccination coverage against measles remains low at only 59 per cent. That means many children in our country are not protected against the disease. Hence the importance of this vaccination campaign cannot be over emphasized”.
The campaign will run in two phases. The first phase starts today and will cover almost 70 percent of the counties in the former Central Equatoria, Eastern Equatoria, Jonglei, Lakes, Norther Bahr el Ghazal, Western Bahr el Ghazal, Unity, Warrap and Upper Nile, while the second phase will cover the remaining counties in Central Equatoria, Jonglei, Unity and upper Nile and end on 17 March 2020.
Not only unvaccinated children can receive the vaccine, also children who only have received one dose are welcome.
“The campaign will contribute to the reduction of illness and death due to measles. The measles virus is highly infectious. It can cause rashes, eye infection, respiratory infections, diarrhea and even death”, said Dr Olushayo Olu, WHO Representative in South Sudan. “We are committed to support the Ministry of Health to attain over 95 per cent coverage to be able interrupt the prevalence of this deadly disease virus in South Sudan”.
Large proportions of the targeted populations are in hard to reach areas. Yet, the partners have planned for vaccination posts throughout the country, also in areas where access to health services is poorer.
“Every child has the same right to health and no child is too far,” said Dr. Mohamed Ag Ayoya, the UNICEF Representative in South Sudan: “We know how important herd immunity is to fight measles and protect the most vulnerable people, that makes it even more important to reach the last child with this campaign. There is a lot of love in taking your children to the nearest vaccination post.”
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UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.
For more information about UNICEF and its work in South Sudan visit: www.unicef.org/southsudan