​South Sudan, WHO begin campaign to vaccinate 1.5m children against polio

South Sudan in partnership with the World Health Organisation (WHO) on Friday launched a fresh campaign aiming to vaccinate 1.5 million children against polio following another polio outbreak.

Olushayo Olu, WHO representative for South Sudan said the campaign provides greater opportunity for the vulnerable populations to receive interventions that could avert life-threatening diseases such as disability from poliomyelitis.

“In spite of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and flooding sweeping much of the country, the campaign provides greater opportunity for vulnerable populations to receive critical interventions that could avert life-threatening diseases such as disability from poliomyelitis,’’ Olu said in a statement issued in Juba.

This came in the wake of confirming 15 cases of vaccine-derived poliomyelitis in children under five years of age in seven counties found in the states of Northern Bahr El Ghazal, Western Bahr El Ghazal, Warrap, Lakes and Eastern Equatoria.

It revealed that the affected children have irreversible paralysis.

Olu disclosed that polio is a preventable disease that no child in South Sudan should suffer from.

WHO noted that the number of confirmed cases has continued to rise in the last few weeks, adding that the first round of the campaign will target children in seven states and 45 counties.

It added that follow-up campaigns covering more states and counties are planned.

Elizabeth Achuei Yol, minister of health, said the campaign is aimed at containing the polio outbreak in order to safeguard other children in the country.

“We need to move fast to stop this outbreak from harming more children,’’ she said.

Achuei urged all parents to take their children for polio vaccination including those who have already been vaccinated.

“It is safe to receive an additional dose and we want to make sure every child is protected,’’ she added.

Mohamed Ayoya, UNICEF South Sudan Representative said the vaccination campaign will help to protect the country from future polio outbreaks.

“We must ensure all children in South Sudan are taken for routine immunisation which includes the polio vaccine, so this doesn’t happen again when the outbreak is curbed,’’ said Ayoya.

According to the UN, less than 50 per cent of children in South Sudan are immunised against polio and other life-threatening diseases, putting them at risk of life-long disability and death.

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