June 04, 2013

In May, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), in collaboration with the South Sudanese Ministry of Health, stemmed a meningitis A outbreak and vaccinated over 130,000 people against the disease in South Sudan’s Upper Nile state, reinforcing its commitment to assisting the region’s population.

Starting on May 15, MSF teams deployed in the northern city of Malakal administered a vaccine first introduced a few years ago that will give the region’s vulnerable population a longer-lasting immunity to meningitis A (a strain likely to cause large-scale epidemics).

“This vaccine protects people from meningitis A for ten years, seven more than the previous one,” says Olimpia de la Rosa, MSF emergency medical coordinator.

The vaccination campaign aimed to contain an existing meningitis outbreak in the area and immunize the population in Upper Nile state, located in the so-called meningitis belt. 

“Even if treated, some of those contracting the disease can be deaf or disabled for life, so vaccinating all these people was really important,” stresses de la Rosa.

A total of 133,633 people were immunized in just ten days. Since early April, 141 cases of meningitis A were reported in Upper Nile state, with seven deaths. The Ministry of Health plans to continue vaccination in other areas with the goal of covering all of South Sudan by 2014.

MSF has been working in the region that today constitutes the Republic of South Sudan since 1983. The international organization, present in eight out of South Sudan’s ten states, responds to many emergencies including large-scale displacement, refugee influxes, alarming nutrition situations, and peaks of disease such as malaria and kala azar, in addition to providing primary and secondary health care services. 

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