14 December, 2017, Juba: South Sudan has been polio-free since June 2009. However, it is still considered at risk for polio outbreak due to insecurity, population movements, along with recent polio outbreaks in the neighbouring countries.
In order to sustain the polio free status, reaching every child with life-saving polio vaccines, and strengthening acute flaccid paralysis surveillance remain core interventions.
Over the past nine years, South Sudan has been implementing the Stop Transmission of Polio (STOP) program in line with the Global Polio Eradication Initiative to strengthen the workforce capacity needed to fill the gaps and provide support for polio eradication and other immunization activities to reach the most disadvantaged and hard to reach communities.
Since 2009, South Sudan has benefitted from the STOP program, and for the just concluded STOP 50 cycle, 13 STOP team members were deployed to the country including field epidemiologists, data managers, and communication specialists for a period of 5 months. The Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) is a coordinated effort of multiple partners in the Stop Transmission of Polio (STOP) Program.
The STOP program has complimented the overall performance of the South Sudan expanded program on immunization (EPI) and its workforce capacity. The STOP volunteers have supported the implementation of polio immunization days, routine immunization, Acute Flaccid Paralysis surveillance, the introduction of real time mobile technology (ODK) for monitoring of EPI/PEI activities, strengthened communication, improved data management and quality, and capacity building for national staff to achieve sustainable health workforce among others.
According to Dr Sylvester Maleghemi, the WHO Polio Eradication Initiative Team Lead, the STOP program is important in the context of South Sudan given the myriad of challenges faced by the country. The mentorship aspect of the program continues to ensure that the country builds the capacity and skills of individuals who will eventually take over the running of these health programs. While acknowledging challenges faced by colleagues in the program, the results seen clearly demonstrate the determination of the STOP program in ensuring South Sudan remains Polio free.