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Media Advisory: New southern Government and UN launch massive measles immunisation campaign in Southern Sudan

11/28/2005 4:32am


Federal Ministry of Health, Government of Southern Sudan
World Health Organisation

New southern Government and UN launch massive measles immunisation campaign
in Southern Sudan

JUBA, SOUTHERN SUDAN, November 28, 2005 - The biggest-ever immunisation
campaign in Southern Sudan kicks off today in the capital, Juba. Over the
next 18 months, about 4.5 million children - half the population of the
vast 640,000 km2 region – will be reached with a single injection that, in
almost all cases, will protect them for life from the killer disease
measles. The southern states of Central (which includes Juba), Western and
Eastern Equatoria are scheduled for the first phase of the campaign, which
will move on to the other seven states of Southern Sudan in 2006.

UNICEF, the World Health Organisation and the Federal Ministry of Health of
the newly-formed Government of Southern Sudan are working with dozens of
NGO partners, hundreds of local health workers and communities to achieve a
public health breakthrough. The ambitious Mass Measles Campaign is only
possible because of the historic peace agreement of early 2005, which has
brought an end to full-scale civil war, opened up access routes into and
within Southern Sudan, and established a new government structure covering
the whole region with strong donor support.

The Vice President of the Government of Southern Sudan, Dr Riek Machar
Teny-Dhurgon, said “the Government of Southern Sudan is fully supportive…
the success of this huge undertaking demands concerted effort.”

The Mass Measles Campaign is not only more than twice the scale of any
previous effort but, unlike ongoing polio campaigns (which reach about 2
million children) also requires training for vaccinators to safely deliver
vaccine doses by injection.

The massive $12 million effort, so far funded by the US Centers for
Disease Control, the governments of Canada and Australia, the UN Foundation
and the Measles Initiative includes mobilising hundreds of staff and
volunteers, procuring dozens of vehicles, fridges and cold boxes and
millions of single-use syringes, all backed by training and social
mobilisation. Logistical support is expected from the UN peace support
mission in Sudan, UNMIS. Vaccination teams will head out from vaccine cold
storage hubs to try and reach all children between six months and the age
of 14 in every village, by road, river or on foot to achieve 95% coverage.
Any pockets of local conflict will be avoided and returned to when the
situation allows.

Of all the child deaths in Southern Sudan that could be prevented by
vaccines, it is estimated that the majority are due to measles. Only an
estimated 20% of children under five in Southern Sudan are vaccinated
against measles through the routine immunization programme, compared to
about 67% in the rest of Sudan. Decades of conflict have left Southern
Sudan’s health services in tatters. Clinics, health centres and hospitals
are largely staffed by over-stretched volunteers and supplied by
international aid agencies. Many people live out of walking distance from
any health facility at all. Disease outbreaks, including measles, are
common, and a major cause of avoidable deaths of children.

“We are taking advantage of an unprecedented opportunity to reverse some of
the worse impacts of war on Southern Sudan’s children,” said Simon
Strachan, UNICEF Director for Southern Sudan. “Measles is a global public
health priority, and this campaign can bring Southern Sudan up to – and
beyond - the level of its neighbours in a relatively short space of time”,
said Abdullahi Ahmed, Head of Office of WHO in Southern Sudan.

Measles is especially dangerous to children living in displaced or
overcrowded settings with poor sanitation and shelter and a short food and
water supply. Poverty and conflict has left millions of children in
Southern Sudan highly vulnerable to one of the most contagious diseases,
and the mass movement of displaced people back to their home areas presents
an additional risk.

The campaign will also support the establishment, revitalization or
strengthening of routine immunisation services in all counties through
provision of cold chain equipment and training of health staff at all
levels. Capacity building for local authority counterparts will lead to
stronger primary health care services in general.

Launched in February 2001, the Measles Initiative
( is a partnership formed to reduce and control
measles deaths. The Initiative is led by the United Nations Foundation,
American Red Cross, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, UNICEF and
the World Health Organization. The Measles Initiative (MI) bases its
success on its far-reaching partnership between public and private
institutions, including key players such as the International Federation of
Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the Canadian International
Development Agency (CIDA), Becton, Dickinson and Company, The Bill and
Melinda Gates Foundation, the Church of Jesus Christ and Latter Day Saints,
Becton, Dickinson and Company (BD), the Global Alliance for Vaccines and
Immunization (GAVI) and countries and governments affected by measles.
While the Measles Initiative is focused in Africa where the majority of
measles-related deaths occur, partners also work on a wide-range of health
initiatives around the world, including measles control and other
vaccination services outside of Africa.

For further information, contact:

Ben Parker, Communication Officer, UNICEF Southern Sudan +882 165 110 1889

Dr Abdullahi Ahmed, WHO Southern Sudan Head of Office +254 20 622832

Note: Photos of the preparation are available now, and of the campaign
launch later today.

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