South Sudan

South Sudan: Medair responds to measles outbreak in Aweil North

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A measles outbreak is sweeping through Aweil North County, Northern Bahr El Ghazal State [Lol State]. An alarming number of children have died from suspected measles and local clinics report confirmed cases. Medair is responding with a county-wide emergency vaccination campaign.

“Immediately after we received reports of these health concerns in Aweil North, we mobilised our Emergency Response Team to assess the situation. The outcome was worrying. We heard of communities that were burying children every day who had died of measles and other preventable diseases,” says Alicia Morcombe, the Health Manager for the Swiss emergency relief organization, Medair, currently coordinating the campaign.

Other factors such as food insecurity, drug shortages and long distances to walk to local health clinics add an extra weight to the critical situation. Mothers of children who were being vaccinated have mentioned they were struggling to find food to feed their families. According to a recent World Food Programme (WFP) report, 5.3 million people in South Sudan currently face severe food shortage, which is likely to lead to high levels of acute malnutrition. Northern Bahr El Ghazal [Lol State] is of particular concern in the report. Malnutrition severely compromises children’s defence against infectious diseases such as measles, which can push them over the edge with life-threatening complications.

“There was no time to lose after our assessment,” Alicia recounts. “In collaboration with the Ministry of Health and County Health Department, and with support from local partners including Première Urgence Internationale, Doctors Without Borders and the World Health Organisation (WHO), we were able to launch the measles campaign in less than a week. Just last week, more than 40 locally-recruited vaccination teams travelled village to village, all the way to the most remote communities, and vaccinated more than 48,000 children.”