South Sudan

Vaccination campaign aims to reach over 2.8 million children with monovalent oral polio vaccines in South Sudan

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A child has her finger marked after being given the polio vaccine © WHO

Juba, South Sudan, 24 February 2021 – The Ministry of Health and partners are rolling-out the second round of the national polio vaccination campaign targeting over 2.8 million children aged 0 – 59 months.

The campaign started on 16 February and covers 74 counties, with vaccinators going from house to house to vaccinate children, while adhering to COVID-19 protocols.

The polio outbreak was declared on 18 September 2020 and spread to 17 counties in all the states of South Sudan. Currently, 39 cases of vaccine-derived poliomyelitis are confirmed with Warrap State and Western Bahr El Ghazal State being most affected.

Widespread displacement and continual population movements due to ongoing conflict and insecurity, as well as perennial flooding have resulted in low immunization coverage and have exacerbated children’s vulnerability to the type 2 circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus, especially those in besieged and hard-to-reach areas. The only way to stop the outbreak is through vaccination.

“With support from the Global Eradication Initiative (GPEI) partners, the country is conducting the second round of nationwide Monovalent Oral Poliovirus Type 2 (mOPV2) campaign not only to stop the outbreak but also to ensure the country remains polio-free while improving the routine immunization coverage”, said Dr Atem Nathan, Director General for Primary Health Care at the Ministry of Health. “I am encouraging all caregivers to allow their children to be vaccinated by the house-to-house teams.”

To stop the outbreak and prevent further spread, the Ministry of Health, WHO, UNICEF and partners are enhancing surveillance with emphasis placed on both community and health facility case search for children that may have developed sudden paralysis of the limbs, along with strengthening investigation and timely transportation of samples to the laboratory.

“The campaign provides an opportunity for the vulnerable children to receive critical interventions that can avert life-threatening disease such as disability from poliomyelitis,” said Dr Olushayo Olu, WHO Representative for South Sudan.

The country is also intensifying the dissemination of messages using diverse channels such as community influencers, radio talk shows, household and focused group meetings, megaphone announcements along with the use of posters demonstrating the importance of vaccination.

“To turn this vaccination campaign into a success, we need to ensure that parents are fully aware of the importance of the vaccination and ask for their children to get the vaccine. Therefore, communication activities are critical,” stressed Andrea Suley, UNICEF South Sudan Representative a.i.

In response to the current outbreak, the country conducted the first round of the mOPV2 campaign in two phases in 2020 reaching 1.5 million children aged 0 – 59 months in November 2020 and 1.1 million in December 2020.

For more information, please contact:
Mary Obat, Director of Health Education and Promotion South Sudan Ministry of Health, mobat43@gmail.com, Tel: +211 924887006
Jemila M. Ebrahim, WHO, ebrahimj@who.int, Tel: +211921647859
Yves Willemot, UNICEF, ywillemot@unicef.org, Tel: +211 91 216 2888