As a result of countrywide low routine immunisation coverage, there is a large susceptible population prone to outbreaks of infectious diseases in South Sudan. Since the beginning of 2019, up to eleven outbreaks of measles have been declared in different parts of the country. Early May, the first measles case was identified in the Protection of Civilians camp in Wau town.
The recent influx of IDPs fleeing from inter-clan violence in Jur River County brought a large group of unvaccinated people together, increasing the chances for infectious diseases to thrive. The measles outbreak was declared short after. Johanniter, as part of a consortium of eight international organisations and the State Ministry of Health, participated in a reactive mass measles vaccination campaign conducted in Wau in the first week of June.
23.018 children between 6 months and 5 years old have been vaccinated in the Protection of Civilians Site (PoC) and surrounding residential areas in Wau town. Vaccination is a first and crucial step to curtail the epidemic and prevent further spread of the disease. Yet, vaccination won’t entirely prevent more children from falling sick. Some children might have been infected prior to vaccination, and the vaccine needs 10 days to two weeks to take its full protective effect. With the epidemic now on its anticipated decline, a need for patient care remains.
On request of the health community in Wau, Johanniter decided to take the lead in the provision of measles case management. Due to its highly infectious nature, care for measles cases requires a separated isolation ward and round-the-clock care. Children with an already compromised immune system, for example due to under- or malnourishment, are particularly vulnerable to die of measles. With help from the state health ministry and other partners, part of our existing nutritional stabilization centre has been staffed and equipped to host a 19-bed isolation ward. Health education and active case finding in the PoC and surrounding communities ensures that suspected measles cases find their way to our facility.
Ten days after the opening, the team had so far admitted 27 measles cases and continue to stay prepared for more. Coordinated response based on an imminent health emergency is an indicator for a functional humanitarian community in Wau, with the South Sudan Johanniter team as essential and reliable partner in health.