Severe measles outbreak threatens thousands in South Sudan

Report
from Medair
Published on 06 Mar 2019

Juba, South Sudan 06 March 2019: More than 75,000 measles vaccines have been airlifted to South Sudan’s Gogrial West County in response to an outbreak declared by the State Ministry of Health. There are 98 suspected measles cases, with one death reported. Medair, an international humanitarian organisation, has mobilized an Emergency Response Team to vaccinate children under five years of age in an area where the population is estimated at over 400,000 people. The campaign is expected to be conducted from 07-17 March, 2019.

Responding to this measles outbreak is made even more urgent by high levels of Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) among children in Gogrial West County . “This is an area where the population is incredibly vulnerable,” said Jennifer Turner, Health Manager with Medair’s Emergency Response Team. “Children who are malnourished are more at risk of being infected with measles, and the complications are often more severe. The food insecurity in this region is rated at a ‘Crisis’ level. ” To reach so many children with vaccinations over a short period of time, Medair will train and deploy more than 800 people from the affected communities who will work steadily for ten days.

Teams of eight will head out each day carrying a supply of vaccines which must be kept cold despite day time temperatures of 40C. During shipping, storage and distribution, the ice packs will be frozen using generator power and, where available, solar powered vaccine fridges. All vaccines and supplies must be transported by air from Juba.

Measles is a highly infectious transmissible disease spread mainly by coughing and sneezing from the nose mouth or throat of infected people, causing fever, runny nose, red eyes, and a rash. Complications of measles can include pneumonia, diarrhoea and encephalitis, which is an infection causing swelling in the brain. Worldwide, measles is the leading cause of vaccine-preventable deaths in infants .

Medair South Sudan’s Emergency Response Team is always available to respond to healthcare emergencies. In 2018, the team completed 23 emergency interventions in health, nutrition, water and sanitation, and the distribution of critical items.

Please contact:

In South Sudan: Sue O’Connor, Communications Officer (English) comms-sds@medair.org +211 (0)92 747 5150

In Switzerland: Paola Barioli, Media and Press Officer (English, French, Italian) paola.barioli@medair.org +41 (0) 78 635 30 95