Tigray refugees benefit from yellow fever and cholera vaccination campaign in Sudan
UNICEF, WHO and GAVI support Sudan’s Health Ministry to curb possible outbreaks through integrated preventive vaccination campaign
In November 2020, conflict broke out in the Tigray region, Northern Ethiopia forcing thousands of refugees from their homes into neighbouring countries including Sudan. An estimated 63,000 Ethiopian refugees (UNHCR reports April 2021) have since been registered, many of them children.
Six months later, more refugees continue to cross the borders, with about 30 to 50 arriving daily, according to UNHCR reports of March 2021.
Nonetheless, UNICEF and other humanitarian partners remain on the ground to support the government’s emergency response, addressing their immediate but urgent needs.
For UNICEF, supporting continuity of essential services during emergency situations includes provision of primary health care services including immunization among other critical services like psychosocial support, nutrition, maternal health, water, sanitation, and hygiene, and much more.
In Um-Rakoba, Village 8 and Tunaytba refugee camps in Sudan’s Gedaref state, now home to thousands of Ethiopian refugees, the situation is not any different.
Catch up vaccination drives in the refugee camps and transit centers, targeting children under five years are ongoing. Children are being vaccinated against killer diseases like measles, polio, diphtheria, among others. Pregnant women and girls (14 and above) are receiving tetanus and diphtheria shots. With some refugees having missed their immunizations back home due to the COVID-19 pandemic and conflict, the catch-up sessions are critical for enhanced protection especially while they are on the move.
Children and women from host communities surrounding the refugee camps are being vaccinated too.
In addition to the routine vaccinations, and because of the high risk to outbreaks of cholera and yellow fever among the refugees and host communities, UNICEF together with World Health Organisation (WHO) and GAVI supported the Ministry of Health to conduct an integrated oral cholera and yellow fever vaccination campaign.
A total of 33,233 refugees aged ten to 60 years from Village 8, Um-Rakoba, and Tunaytba refugee camps and 18,368 persons from surrounding host communities were reached with the yellow fever vaccine.
In Hamdait camp, Kassala state, about 3,834 people were protected from the yellow fever disease through the integrated campaign.
Similarly, a total of 36,497 Ethiopian refugees in Village 8, Um-Rakoba and Tunaytba camps in Gedaref state and 18,368 Sudanese in surrounding communities received the oral cholera vaccine to prevent possible vaccine-preventable disease outbreaks including cholera, especially in the upcoming rainy season. While a total of 4,231 people in Hamdait camp, Kassala sate, were reached with the same vaccine.
To ensure a successful campaign, UNICEF supported community mobilization activities, engaged community leaders, and run announcements with messages translated in both Tigrinya and Arabic languages, to encourage refugees and host communities to take the vaccines. The interventions greatly contributed to the success of the campaign and addressed questions communities had about the vaccines and vaccination exercise.
With just one dose of the yellow fever vaccine, the recipients are protected from the deadly disease for life.
Moreover, with UNICEF, WHO and GAVI support, the Government of Sudan is planning a second round of the oral cholera vaccination from 24 May to 27 May 2021 to ensure the communities are fully covered from any possible cholera outbreak.