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Nearly 8 million children in Sudan to be vaccinated against measles

A child receives a vaccination in Sudan (Noorani/Unicef)
A child receives a vaccination in Sudan (Noorani/Unicef)

The Sudanese Ministry of Health, in cooperation with Unicef and national partners, today launched a massive campaign to immunise 7.9 million children, aged six months to 15 years against the life-threatening disease. 

In one of the worst measles outbreaks in Sudan’s recent history, which began in the end of 2014, there have been 1,730 confirmed cases, 3,175 suspected cases and 22 fatalities, Unicef stated in a news note today. 

Of the total number of reported measles cases, 69 percent are below 15 years of age, including 52 percent under the age of five. West Darfur remains the worst affected state, with 441 confirmed cases and five deaths.  Kassala has had 365 confirmed cases and five deaths, while in Red Sea state there have been 263 cases and four deaths.

“Measles is a life threatening disease, but one that can easily be prevented with timely immunisation,” Unicef Representative in Sudan Geert Cappelaere said. “Every girl and boy must be reached, no matter where they live. There are no excuses and no child can be left out.”

Sudan has one of the highest levels of malnutrition in Africa. 36 percent of the children are stunted, which is a primary manifestation of undernutrition. For malnourished children, measles can cause serious complications, including blindness, ear infections, pneumonia, and severe diarrhoea. 

“Every girl and boy must be reached, no matter where they live. There are no excuses and no child can be left out.”

The campaign will initially target 28 affected localities in six of the highest risk states, before expanding to other areas identified as being at risk of an outbreak. In total 96 localities in 16 affected and “at risk” states will be targeted.

There are children in conflict zones in South Kordofan, Blue Nile, and Darfur who have not received routine immunisation since 2011. Unicef has called on the warring parties to facilitate humanitarian access, so that these children can be reached.  

The campaign is expected to cost approximately $13.9 million. Unicef is appealing to all donors to make funding available to fight the outbreak, which is having a detrimental effect on the lives of children across Sudan and threatens neighbouring countries.  Unicef, the World Health Organisation (WHO), and partners are coordinating with surrounding countries to stop this outbreak from crossing the borders.

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