Juba, 24 April 2023 – The Ministry of Health, South Sudan, in partnership with Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, UNICEF, WHO and other key partners, has launched a nationwide measles vaccination campaign. The campaign aims to vaccinate more than 2.7 million children aged 6-59 months against the highly infectious disease.
The launch of the measles vaccination campaign highlights South Sudan's resilience in rolling out immunization campaigns despite competing health priorities including recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Measles is a highly contagious disease caused by a virus and occurs seasonally in endemic areas. Among malnourished children and immunocompromised people, measles can also cause serious complications, including blindness, encephalitis, severe diarrhea, ear infection, and pneumonia. Measles outbreaks are particularly dangerous in countries like South Sudan, where malnutrition and weakened immune systems make children more vulnerable.
The national vaccination campaign is a timely response to the recent outbreaks the country has been witnessing following pandemic-related declines in measles vaccination coverage. According to WHO figures, between January 2022 and 1 February 2023, health authorities in South Sudan reported an outbreak of measles, with over 4,000-suspected cases and 46 deaths across the country. The country has conducted several outbreak responses campaigns to help mitigate public health impact, and this nationwide push is vital because 95% coverage is required to curb transmission.
The campaign will use a combination of fixed and outreach vaccination sites, with a focus on reaching children in remote areas. It will also include community mobilization activities to raise awareness of the importance of measles vaccination. In readiness for the campaign, the Ministry of Health has worked to build capacities of community health workers, not only to roll out the vaccination but also serve to curb vaccine hesitance and increase community awareness.
"Vaccination is a foundation for a Healthy Population, Healthy Nation right from childhood", said Hon. Yolanda Awel Deng, South Sudan's Minister of Health.
Immunization is one of the most effective public health interventions, helping to ensure every child has the opportunity to grow up healthy and reach their full potential, and can open the doorway to delivery of other essential services. This nationwide measles campaign will be integrated with Vitamin A and deworming campaigns, helping deliver multiple interventions effectively.
"Vaccination is the most cost-effective way to protect children from this deadly disease. What is so important and innovative about this approach is that not only are we providing this critical health intervention, but we’re also ensuring children receive vital nutrition and other essential health services," said Amy LaTrielle, the Director for Fragile and Conflict at Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. "We are proud to support South Sudan's Ministry of Health in delivering this critical vaccine, integrating rollout with the delivery of other important health services, and strengthening the overall capacity of the country’s health system."
“It is important to vaccinate all children, boost their immunity and ensure their protection against diseases like measles. Vaccines save children’s lives,” said UNICEF South Sudan's Acting Representative, Mr Eric Alain Ategbo. “UNICEF’s support of this important campaign is vital to ensure that every child is spared from this preventable disease. In partnership with the National Ministry of Health and other UN agencies, we are committed to reaching every part of the country and 2.7 children countrywide with this campaign,” she added.
“South Sudan is currently facing a surge in measles cases. This highly infectious virus presents with various symptoms such as fever, cough, sore throat and conjunctivitis”, said Dr Fabian Ndenzako, Acting WHO Representative in South Sudan. “The nationwide campaign will play a crucial role in reducing illness and deaths caused by measles”. WHO is committed to supporting the Ministry of Health to achieve over 95 percent coverage to improve herd immunity and ultimately eliminate this virus from South Sudan, in line with the Measles Elimination Goal.
While the campaign is a crucial step towards protecting South Sudan's children from measles, partners continue efforts to ensure rollout of catch-up initiatives as well as strengthened and effective Routine Immunization activities. Partners are also keen on integration with COVID-19 Vaccination as well as strengthening the country's health systems.
The campaign coincides with the 2023 Africa Vaccination Week, which has seen governments, health stakeholders, and partners commit to work together to address backsliding in childhood vaccinations resulting from pandemic disruptions, conflict, displacement and increasing vaccine misinformation.
Ministry of Health
Republic of South Sudan
Mary Denis Obat
+211 924 887 006
Collins Weru Mwai
+25 078 783 66 38
+41 79 711 55 54
WHO South Sudan
Jemila M. Ebrahim
UNICEF South Sudan,
+211 92 135 9578