IOM staff vaccinates children against measles at the Malakal PoC site in South Sudan in 2016. [Photo: IOM]

South Sudan to conduct a nationwide measles vaccination campaign

Following one of the worst measles outbreaks in South Sudan’s recent history, the health ministry, with support from its partners, plans to conduct a nationwide measles vaccination campaign across the country in March 2023, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) said in a statement on Monday.

Following one of the worst measles outbreaks in South Sudan’s recent history, the health ministry, with support from its partners, plans to conduct a nationwide measles vaccination campaign across the country in March 2023, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) said in a statement on Monday.

According to IRC, with a 182 percent increase in measles cases between the first two months of 2022 compared to the first two months of 2023, the national campaign is aimed at closing immunity gaps to stop the transmission of the virus and protect the health of the populace.

The WHO noted that from January 2022 to 1 February 2023, health authorities in South Sudan responded to an ongoing outbreak of measles, with 4,339 suspected cases and 46 deaths reported across the country.

Caroline Sekyewa, IRC Country Director in South Sudan, said measles vaccination coverage rates have remained low and reached only 69 percent in 2021, which is below the target of 95 percent for measles elimination.

“With an increased population in the refugee camps, disruption of healthcare service delivery, and limited access to healthcare services, this outbreak could further exacerbate an already fragile health system which is also battling malnutrition and flooding,” she said. “The IRC, however, continues to step up efforts to curb the spread of the disease through public health awareness.”

IRC says that it will work with the health ministry and partners to get vaccines into the arms of children who remain unprotected by conducting measles vaccination campaigns in the affected counties.

“Currently, the IRC is mobilizing community volunteers to raise awareness and to educate parents on the importance of the measles vaccination,” the statement read. “The community members are encouraged to minimize direct contact with infected children and to report any suspected cases.”

The IRC is appealed to all donors to make funding available to fight the measles outbreak which it says is having a detrimental effect on the lives of children across South Sudan and threatening the lives of children in neighboring countries.

Measles is a highly contagious disease caused by a virus, but it can easily be prevented with timely immunization. Children are most at risk of the disease – children who are malnourished are even more vulnerable.