South Sudan seeks to vaccinate 3.1 mln children in polio campaign


  • World
  • Wednesday, 28 Feb 2024

JUBA, Feb. 27 (Xinhua) -- South Sudan and United Nations agencies launched a nationwide polio campaign on Tuesday, aiming to vaccinate 3.1 million children.

According to the Ministry of Health, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), three variant poliovirus cases have been confirmed in three of South Sudan's 10 states: Western Equatoria, Central Equatoria and Upper Nile.

"The reported cases involve children under five years of age. Unlike previous poliovirus outbreaks, the affected children have not received polio vaccinations," the Ministry of Health said in a joint statement issued in Juba, the capital of South Sudan.

The Ministry of Health, with support from the WHO, UNICEF and other partners, has established an emergency response task force to coordinate the response, while increasing surveillance efforts to help halt the outbreak and prevent its further spread.

Awut Deng Acuil, the minister of General Education and Instruction, representing the minister of health, said that the campaign will target all children under five years of age in all 10 states and the three administrative areas of the country.

"We need to act quickly to prevent this outbreak from harming more children," Deng said, urging that all children under the age of five years should be vaccinated against polio to ensure the success of the week-long campaign.

According to the WHO, the novel oral polio vaccine type 2 has been designed to provide safe and reliable protection against poliovirus and is genetically more stable than previous oral polio vaccine types.

This, it said, means that it has the potential to be effective in preventing new outbreaks of type 2 circulating variant-polio viruses.

It is estimated that 33 percent of children have not received vaccination against poliovirus type 2, according to the WHO.

The country's immunization coverage has been affected by population movements and displacement, making it challenging to reach the children who need vaccinations the most.

"Polio, a preventable disease, should not affect any child anywhere," said Humphrey Karamagi, WHO representative for South Sudan, adding that the campaign provides a significant opportunity for vulnerable populations to receive critical interventions that could prevent life-threatening diseases, such as poliomyelitis-induced disability.

Hamida Lasseko, UNICEF South Sudan representative, said the nationwide campaign marks a pivotal moment in their continued efforts to combat polio in South Sudan.

"By leveraging the vaccine, designed for enhanced efficacy against poliovirus, we can strengthen our defenses and reduce the spread of viruses," Lasseko said.

Currently, paralytic polio infections are being reported in several African countries.

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