UNICEF launches integrated child survival campaign
Protects children from life threatening diseases like measles and malnutrition
Millions of families have sought refuge across the country, as the conflict in Sudan continues, now in its 6th month. Over 2 million children are currently displaced internally and across borders.
Following mass displacements, gathering points and camps are crowded. Children remain vulnerable to disease outbreaks like measles and polio, and cholera, which can cause death or profound disability, especially when severe acute malnourished.
Several health facilities are non-functional. Parents and caregivers are unable to reach facilities for critical services, yet health facilities in less-affected states are overwhelmed with the increasing numbers while others are reporting severe shortage and stockout of medicines and supplies, including life-saving items, due to the interruption of the supply management system.
Children are suffering the most with many at risk of missing out on basic immunizations. Life-threatening diseases like measles and malnutrition remain a big risk for these children. Already before the conflict, routine immunization rates in Sudan were declining. Today, more than ever, reaching every child with critical health services including vaccinations remains a priority for UNICEF.
Recently the State and Federal Ministry of Health with support from UNICEF launched an integrated child survival campaign in White Nile state targeting children under five with lifesaving health and nutrition services.
During the weeklong campaign, over 1,000 frontline health workers reached children in refugee camps and host communities with measles vaccinations, vitamin A supplementation, deworming, nutrition screening, and immediate treatment of those with malnutrition. Pregnant women were provided with iron and folic acid supplementation.
Pre-activities including door to door mobilization of communities kicked off the campaign. In Redias camp, Francis Deng, a 35-year-old health promoter led the team. With his megaphone in hand, under the scorching sun, he traversed homes, markets, and the entire camp urging mothers to vaccinate and protect their children from measles and screen their children for malnutrition at the campaign.
“I walk around the neighborhood daily notifying everyone about the vaccination exercise. Measles is a dangerous disease and spreads very fast especially in our camp,” Deng shared.
UNICEF teams joined volunteers to mobilize mothers and caregivers to participate in the campaign. From home to home, they took time to speak to mother and caregivers while stressing the importance of immunization especially during crises and massive displacements characterized with congestion in living areas.
In Redis Camp, several service centres were set up to cater to the large numbers of mothers and their children. An integrated package of life-saving services from routine vaccination, measles vaccination as well as nutrition services such as vitamin A supplementation, nutrition screening, and provision of Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF) for malnourished children, were delivered at each centre.
With many children and families displaced in faraway locations, frontline health workers and volunteers took services closer, to ensure no child was left behind. At outreach posts set up in the various communities, children received lifesaving services including vaccinations as well as nutrition screening and treatment throughout the campaign period.
Children under five were screened for malnutrition. While families with children remain on the move, many have little or nothing to eat which is affecting their nutrition status. UNICEF and partners continue to provide lifesaving preventive and curative nutrition interventions across the country. Early detection of malnutrition remains critical to initiation of treatment to save lives of children.
Nawal Jamis feeds her son with ready-to-use-therapeutic food (RUTF), a highly nutritious peanut paste that treats malnutrition in children under 5 years old after his MUAC reading scored in the red zone. He is malnourished with no medical complications.
During the campaign, over 1,500 new severely malnourished cases were admitted on the nutrition programme bringing the total of severe acute malnutrition (SAM) children to 4,620 in the 10 camps covered.
Wherever possible, including in the hot spot areas, UNICEF is maintaining the pipeline of nutrition supplies including therapeutic milk and Ready-to-Use-Therapeutic Food (RUTF).
Since the onset of the conflict, the State and Federal Ministry of Health with support from UNICEF has maintained the pipeline of vaccines and strengthened cold chain systems to support vaccination drives across the country including in the White Nile state. During the campaign, measles vaccines were delivered by UNICEF teams in cooler boxes that ensured they were safe and effective.
Suzan Saimon has volunteered as a vaccinator for several years and today she remains at the frontline, supporting vaccination drives in White Nile.
“All I care about is helping children and ensuring they are in good health.”
Vivyana Yoor hugs her daughter after vaccination. She fled violence in Khartoum and now lives in a camp in West Nile. “My daughter was vaccinated in Khartoum at nine months, but I was eager to get the other vaccinations now that she is one year and a half,” she said.
UNICEF and partners ensured life-saving health supplies and vaccines were sufficient to support the campaign including faraway refugee camps and host communities that could only be accessed using small boats. They were determined to reach every child and were unstoppable.
Amidst conflict in the country, the integrated campaign was critical to reaching displaced children and those in host communities with services to protect them from disease. A total of 45,514 under five children received measles vaccination out of which 1,281 were receiving vaccinations for the first time; 41,783 were screened for malnutrition; 4,375 cases of malnutrition were identified and initiated on treatment; 33,796 children received Vitamin A supplementation and 34,322 received deworming tablets. Also, 4,815 pregnant women received iron supplementation to boost their health and that of their unborn children.
As UNICEF and partners continue to roll out child survival campaigns, reaching children with critical services especially those in the furthest places, is urgent. If the conflict doesn’t stop, many more children remain at risk of disease outbreaks, missing out on immunizations among many other irreversible impacts.