Insecurity’ could hinder battle against measles, WHO warns

By William Madouk

World Health Organization has warned that the measles outbreak in South Sudan could be tugged to the new year due to armed conflict, food insecurity and mass displacement of people to camps.

According to WHO, since the measles outbreak in January last year up to date – the ailment has killed 46 people nationwide, out of 4,339 suspected cases only 388 were confirmed to be cases of measles.

Ministry of Health declared the two outbreaks of measles on February 23rd after recording cases in Torit and Maban, while the second declaration was on 10th December 2022, following an alarming climb in the number of cases countrywide.

“The current outbreak may have serious public health impacts due to the low national level of measles immunization coverage which is below the expected 95% coverage to interrupt the ongoing transmission” said WHO in a statement seen by No.1 Citizen Daily Newspaper.

“Other factors include the most affected age group being those under five years old, and the country context where there are armed conflicts, food insecurity and internally displaced people favouring transmission” it added.

WHO said a total of 770,581 children were vaccinated during reactive vaccination campaigns between March and November 2022, adding that another nationwide vaccination campaign against measles is planned to begin in March this year.

Measles is a highly contagious disease caused by the measles virus and occurs as a seasonal disease in endemic areas.

Its transmission is primarily person-to-person by airborne respiratory droplets that disperse within minutes when an infected person coughs or sneezes, and can also occur through direct contact with infected secretions.

The measles virus attacks the main children with the most serious complications including blindness, brain swelling, diarrhea and severe respiratory infections.

“South Sudan is one of the African countries with the lowest measles immunization coverage, resulting in suboptimal population immunity” an assessment by WHO stated.

It added that the 2020 WHO-UNICEF estimates of National Immunization Coverage (WUENIC) for the first dose of measles-containing vaccine (MCV1) were estimated to be 49%.

“Based on the measles risk analysis conducted in March 2022, 49 counties out of 80 (69%) in 10 states and three administrative areas are classified as “very high risk” for measles transmission,” WHO noted.

WHO advised that Vaccination against measles is recommended for all susceptible children and adults.

“Reaching all children with two doses of measles vaccine should be the standard for all national immunization programs” WHO added.  “Countries aiming at measles elimination should achieve ≥95% coverage with both doses equitably to all children in every district” the statement continued.

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