Over 40 South Sudanese killed by measles in 2022 – WHO

Over 40 South Sudanese killed by measles in 2022 – WHO
Namsini Nina was suffering from measles. [Photo: James Oatway]

At least 46 South Sudanese children have died of measles since January 2022 to date, World Health Organization noted in a report.

South Sudan’s ministry of health and the World Health Organization lamented that the country has been struggling to contain a rapid increase in measles since the outbreak in January 2022.

 There were about 4,339 suspected cases with 388—8.9 per cent—of them being laboratory-confirmed, according to the report by WHO.

Meanwhile, 3,187 (73.5 per cent) of the suspected cases involved children who have not been vaccinated. There are 2,398 children under the age of five and 1,021 children under the age of one, making up the unvaccinated population.

The cases of measles were reported from 55 counties in all 10 states and three administrative areas.

The ministry of health declared a measles outbreak in February 2022 after receiving reports of cases in Torit, Eastern Equatoria State, Maban, and Upper Nile State.

Following a gradual increase in the number of cases across the country, the second outbreak was declared in December 2022.

The Central Equatoria State had the most number of deaths (18), Cueibet County in Lakes State had eight deaths, and other counties had fewer than five mortalities in total.

According to a WHO report, the country’s measles outbreak has killed 46 people out of approximately 400 confirmed cases.

 There are concerns that the current outbreak would have serious public health consequences.

WHO attributes this to “low level of measles immunization which is below the expected 95 per cent coverage” and cannot “interrupt the ongoing transmission.”

The WHO also cautioned that such an outbreak could last into the New Year due to a variety of risk factors such as armed conflict, food insecurity, and the situation in IDP camps.

However, between March and November 2022, an estimated 770,581 children were vaccinated as part of reactive vaccination campaigns.

The World Health Organization and the Ministry of Health intend to launch a nationwide measles vaccination campaign in March 2023.

Dr Alexandra Anthony, a paediatrician at Al Sabha Children’s Hospital, warned in an interview with The City Review last year that the country needs to ramp up its measles vaccination campaign.

“They carry their children and come out to mix with other kids, and that is one of the causes of spreading of measles, sometimes we get measles patients where they are not supposed to be,” Anthony said.

“If possible make the vaccine available for everybody who is in need.”

Dangers and risk factors

Measles is potentially fatal. The virus causes a high fever as well as a distinct rash that starts on the face and spreads throughout the body. Pneumonia, severe diarrhoea, blindness, brain swelling, and death are all serious complications.

Dr. Anthony said his team frequently struggles to keep measles-infected children alive.

“Sometimes we have more than one patient who needs oxygen but it is hard to get oxygen,” he lamented.

“The same oxygen we are using is brought from the emergency ward or the OPD and then they take it and give it to whoever needs more.”

Despite the availability of a safe and cost-effective vaccine, the World Health Organization reports that more than 140,000 people have died from measles in African countries since 2018—the majority of whom were children under the age of five.

WHO stated that the vaccination reduced death cases by 73 per cent between 2000 and 2018.

In 2018, approximately 86 per cent of the world’s children received one dose of the measles vaccine through routine health services, up from 72 percent in 2000.

Cases of measles in South Sudan in brief

-4,339 suspected cases noted since January 2022

-46 death cases noted during the said period.

-388 of the cases confirmed in the laboratory

-3,187 of the cases involved unvaccinated children

– 2,398 of unvaccinated were children under the age of five

– 1,021 of unvaccinated were children under the age of one

Source: WHO

140,000- The death cases stemming from measles infection posted by African countries since 2018