January 24, 2014 (JUBA) – The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said it had, together with its partners, started mass immunisation among South Sudanese refugees currently living in Uganda to prevent spread of the disease.
The campaign, a spokesperson for the agency said, came after Ugandan Ministry of Health officials confirmed an outbreak of the disease among over 59,000 South Sudanese refugees in the country, since the mid-December conflict outbreak.
“Five cases had been registered so far and three suspected cases had been reported among refugees in the Arua area,” said Adrian Edward, adding that samples had been sent to the Uganda Virus Research Institute.
The immunization campaign, he further stressed, would cover all refugee and Ugandan children below 15 in the Northern Uganda districts of Arua and Adjumani.
“After the mass immunization campaign, all refugee children arriving in the Adjumani, Arua and Kiryandongo areas, would be systematically screened to ensure they were protected”, said Edwards.
Violence broke out in the South Sudan capital, Juba and later spread along ethnic fault lines to other parts of the country. An estimated over 1,000 people have so been killed and half a million displaced in the one-month conflict, UN says.
Since mid-December, however, more than 100,000 South Sudanese have reportedly fled the country into neighbouring Uganda, Ethiopia, Kenya and Sudan.
At least 250 refugees, the agency said, were arriving daily at its reception area in Adjumani, with continued reports from inside South Sudan of people readying to cross into Uganda, depending on the situation.
Meanwhile, UNHCR welcomed Thursday’s signing of the South Sudan ceasefire agreement, urging the two warring parties to ensure the deal is implemented to avert further displacement within and outside of the country.
The agreement on cessation of hostilities comes after South Sudan’s government agreed to release the 11 rebel political figures who remain detained on accusations of having links to the failed coup attempt last month.