National, News

Urgent measles vaccination needed-MSF

By Gladys Fred Kole


South Sudan needs an urgent measles vaccination campaign to prevent spread of the disease in the country.

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has urged health authorities and the World Health Organization (WHO) following an outbreak in Western Equatoria state.

Mr. Zakaria Mwatia, MSF head of mission in South Sudan, said that in order to control the situation at hand, vaccination campaigns are vital.

“Large-scale vaccination campaigns are vital, both in Western Equatoria State and Northern Bahr el Ghazal State, where the current measles outbreaks are ongoing, to halt further spread of the disease and prevent any more outbreaks,” said Zakaria.

MSF noted a mounting measles crisis in Western Equatoria state, just as health authorities struggle to overcome an outbreak of yellow fever.

About 7 death cases among children under five, since February, while 460 cases as of March 24th, in three health facilities in Yambio and Nzara counties, are reported.

At least 90 per cent of these children had never been vaccinated against the disease, according to MSF.

MSF stated that with measles cases on the rise and vaccination coverage alarmingly low, the authorities and health partners need to urgently pay attention.

South Sudan’s fragile health system cannot bear the burden of recurrent outbreaks

Low vaccination coverage in South Sudan has a significant impact on the population.

Children, particularly, are highly vulnerable to diseases such as measles, which can lead to serious health complications and deaths.

Given the gravity of the health threats posed by both measles and yellow fever, MSF calls for increased efforts to raise community awareness about the diseases and to adopt best practices to stop them from spreading.

“It is imperative that the Ministry of Health and other health organizations, including WHO, intensify their efforts to expand vaccination coverage across the country and especially those areas most prone to disease outbreaks,” the MSF head of mission further urged.

For her part, Ms. Victoria John, a mother to a victim, said that at a point she felt her child was going to die due to the measles attack.

“When my child fell sick, he was having a high fever, diarrhea, and cough. While at home, I gave him Paracetamol, but there was no improvement. We then brought him to the MSF facility, where he received treatment for three days. If I didn’t come to the facility, I knew my child was going to die,’’ said Victoria John, mother of one-and-a-half-year-old Mark Emmanuel, suffering from measles.

Measles has become a persistent emergency in South Sudan, with recurring outbreaks challenging healthcare systems and endangering communities.

More than 12,000 cases have been recorded this year; only last week, South Sudan recorded more than 400 cases.

According to an MSF report, twenty per cent of children treated for measles at MSF-supported facilities are over the age of five, highlighting the need for a reactive vaccination campaign to reach this group of older children who did not receive measles vaccinations as part of the existing expanded immunization program (EPI).

The measles outbreak is a double blow for a region still struggling to deal with yellow fever after the most recent outbreak—the fourth in just six years—was declared by health authorities in December 2023.

As of mid-March, 81 cases of yellow fever, including three confirmed ones, and six deaths have been recorded. The Ministry of Health, in collaboration with WHO, launched a yellow fever vaccination campaign, immunizing around 357,000 people across three counties of Western Equatoria state.

The campaign resulted in a reduction in the number of suspected and confirmed cases, a testament to the efficacy of mass vaccination campaigns.


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