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Mass measles vaccination campaign underway in Mayom

By Loyce Wilson

A campaign to immunize nearly 40,000 children against measles was launched yesterday, 6 March 2019. The campaign is being carried out by the Ministry of Health with support from the World Health Organization (WHO), the UN’s Children Fund (UNICEF) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM). It comes after a measles outbreak was recently confirmed in Mayom, former Unity State.

At least 17 measles cases with no deaths have been reported in Mayom County, with nearly 90 per cent of those affected aged less than 5 years and originating from Pup and MankienPayams.

The nine-day campaign, which ends on 14 March, will target 37,193 children aged from 6 to 59 months in 10 bomas, namely Kuerbona, Mankien, Riak, Ruathnyibol, Kueryiek, Ngop, Pub, Bieh, Wangbour and Wangkei.

Measles is a highly contagious disease. It can cause debilitating or fatal complications, including encephalitis (an infection that leads to swelling of the brain), severe diarrhoea and dehydration, pneumonia, ear infections and permanent vision loss. Babies and young children with malnutrition and weak immune systems are particularly vulnerable to complications and death. However, the disease is preventable through a safe and effective measles containing vaccine.

Measles outbreaks in South Sudan are attributed to accumulation of unvaccinated children due to low routine immunization administrative coverage at 59 per cent. Access to health care across the country is extremely limited with less than 50 per cent of the population estimated to live within a five kilometer radius of a health facility. As part of the measles control strategy, countrywide measles campaigns targeting children are implemented every two years.

The most recent measles follow-up campaign was conducted in May 2017 and reached 1,950,955 (84%) of the 2,312,659 targeted children aged between 9-59 months. Some counties could not be reached due to insecurity. A countrywide follow-up measles campaign targeting children is planned for later this year, which will reduce the number of susceptible and unvaccinated children, reducing the risk of further outbreaks.

WHO’s activities under the reactive measles campaign are funded by the US Agency for International Development’s (USAID). IOM’s engagement in this campaign is funded by USAID’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance and UNICEF is funded by Saudi Arabia.

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