September 30, 2013 (JUBA) - South Sudan health ministry has declared a national health emergency in the country following an outbreak of Polio, four years after is was declared free from the infection.
- A medical worker vaccinates a child against polio. (AFP)
At least two cases, the country’s health minister said, were registered in Northern Bahr el Ghazal and Eastern Equatoria states.
"We consider this a national health emergency", Riek Gai told reporters Monday.
We are mobilizing from the highest level of government to every community in the country in order to stop this disease, he added.
Polio, or poliomyelitis, is a highly contagious viral infection that can lead to paralysis, breathing problems, or even death. The disease, in its most debilitating forms, displays symptoms such as paralysis and death.
In June 2009, health officials declared South Sudan Polio free.
The ministry, he said, was working closely with World Health Organization (WHO), United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) and other key partners to ensure the most effective response to the disease outbreak.
“Together, we will stop the spread of Polio in South Sudan,” the minister assured.
Two girls aged two and eight, living in Aweil South County and a two year-old girl in Ikotos County were confirmed on 26 September by the Kenyan Medical Research Institute, as having Polio.
"The status of the three girls is being followed closely" Gai said.
In August this year, the Ministry of Health and its partners conducted additional polio vaccination campaigns in the states considered most at risk from the outbreak in the affected countries on its borders. These included, Upper Nile, Jonglei, Eastern Equatoria, Central Equatoria and in Unity states Pariang County.
However, following the confirmation of the three Polio cases, the government and partners reportedly responded with emergency vaccinations in the areas where the virus was detected.
The emergency “mop-up” campaign, designed to stop the quick spread of the virus, will reportedly continue through October 4. Additional campaigns will reportedly be held in every state in the country in October, November and December.
“We are organizing intensive vaccination campaigns throughout the country to protect our children against this devastating disease”, the minister said.
“We are determined to stop the spread of Polio”, he added, while appealing to parents and citizens in the country to ensure their children are vaccinate against Polio during this campaign.