Child immunisations continue amidst conflict
“We thought that the conflict will stop the vaccinations, but thankfully it is going on.”
- 2 June 2023
- 4 min read
- by UNICEF
Alawia visits Kenan Health Centre in Jabaleen locality, White Nile state for vaccination of her three months old child, Mutasim. This is his second vaccination appointment.
While the conflict in Sudan continues, UNICEF and the Federal Ministry of Health with support from Gavi are doing everything possible to maintain the delivery of critical healthcare services including child vaccinations. These efforts will not only protect children from vaccine preventable disease but will also prevent outbreaks that can erupt during crises.
"We thought that the conflict will stop the vaccinations, but thankfully it is going on," Alawia says with a smile.
Muna Bailo Ali is part of the Expanded Programme for Immunization (EPI) team in White Nile that is ensuring immunization services continue and reach displaced communities that have fled the conflict. She is at the health facility daily attending to mothers and caregivers who bring their children for immunization.
"The most important thing is for the children to take their doses on time," Muna shares.
"It is true that people are in a state of conflict and very harsh situations and some people were not able to take their immunization cards." "When you reach the centres, the staff there are trained and qualified to help you," Muna continues.
With the health centres in White Nile and other stable and calm states offering vaccination services, children can still get their vaccinations on time.
Sustaining the supply of vaccines across the country – a success story
The conflict that erupted in Sudan on 15 April has destroyed health infrastructure including two regional vaccine cold facilities. This threatened the continuity of immunization services that remain critical during conflict as well as undo the gains made over the years.
"The fighting had already caused delays to the planned polio outbreak response campaign and the measles and rubella catchup campaigns," Khattab Obaid, UNICEF Health Officer, shares.
As the conflict continues, now in its sixth week, UNICEF and the Federal Ministry of Health are maintaining uninterrupted immunization supply chain across the country. Without these efforts, millions of vaccines would have been damaged and unusable, putting millions of children at risk of vaccine preventable diseases.
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To date, vaccines have been successfully dispatched and delivered to 12 states and vaccinations drives ongoing, thanks to the concerted efforts.
In Gezira, one of the safer states currently hosting thousands of displaced people, the vaccines will go a long way in supporting vaccination drives.
While receiving the vaccines, Abdelmotalab Karamallah from the state EPI noted that disease outbreaks are expected during such circumstances especially measles and there is need to reach every child with vaccines for protection. "We will inform everyone that immunization services are fully available through our centres and are free," he mentions.
Continued vaccinations for children
While Mutasim receives protection against polio, diarrhea, diphtheria, pneumonia, health workers at Kenan Health Centre confirm they have witnessed several arrivals of displaced children and families from Khartoum and other states. But they remain committed to reaching every child.
"We need more vaccines and more sessions to cover all new arrivals," Muna Ali says.
With vaccines reaching several states, chances of reaching children like Mutasim with vaccines are much higher and so is their protection.
"All mothers should come for the routine immunization. My sister also came from Khartoum and a lot of people came. And we will tell them to come for vaccination," Alawia stresses.
With an already fragile health system in Sudan, without routine vaccinations, children are now at risk of outbreaks, including polio, measles and cholera. Through its emergency response, UNICEF continues maintaining the immunization supply chain as well as prepare for additional vaccines through Port Sudan to secure vaccines pipeline up to September 2023.
Proscovia Nakibuuka Mbonye
This article was originally published by the UNICEF Sudan on 26 May 2023.