Following a series of meetings between the Ministry of Health (MOH) of the Government of Southern Sudan, UNICEF and other health focused Organisations, one of the key recommendations was that UNICEF supports the MOH/GOSS to establish a central Cold Chain store in Juba so that all ministries and NGO partners implementing the Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI) can access vaccines directly from inside Southern Sudan instead of Lokichoggio which had for the period of the war served as the main hub.
While progress has been made in the last 5 years in supplemental immunization activities (SIAs)-measles, maternal and neo natal and polio campaigns (68% to 100%), routine EPI had very low coverage of about 20% due to inadequate logistics, difficult terrains, bad weather conditions and inadequate trained personnel and insuficnet resources.
With the CPA and opening up of so many areas, the access to vaccines from inside Southern Sudan by the counties and partners that will implement EPI in the new areas became an obvious challenge.
UNICEF supports the MOH to establish the cold Chain to strengthen the routine EPI to adequately reach and protect the children of Southern Sudan from vaccine Preventable deaths.
The Cold Chain (with two walk in rooms) the Minister of Health/GOSS will commission today with two 20 KVA back-up generators have the capacity of storing 4.7 million doses of vaccines. 14 deep freezers with a total storage capacity of 7.0 million doses of vaccine have also been installed.
The Cold chain will for the first time ever enable fast and timely responses to vaccine preventable emergencies such as outbreaks of yellow Fever and Meningitis as and when they occur.
UNICEF has also made available vaccine accessories that can be accessed easily from Juba by all state Ministries and partners implementing EPI inside Southern Sudan.
UNICEF has commenced an intensive capacity building effort to ensure the availability of trained health personnel in all aspects of EPI at the state level for a start, to be later followed by similar efforts at county level. 32 mid-level managers at state level have been trained on EPI and 27 Cold Chain assistants and another 32 EPI social Mobilization Officers from all the 10 state Ministries of Health.
The ownership of EPI by the evolving Government of Southern Sudan is very critical. UNICEF, WHO and other partners have continued to support the programme, including the on-going Mass Measles Campaign (MMC) that has reached 1.27m children so far, the national polio campaigns that have ensured a polio virus free Southern Sudan and the steadily increasing routine EPI. However, this has been without a central EPI team at the MOH/GOSS. As of today, a central EPI Manager or Director is yet to be appointed. There is no Central Cold Chain Officer that UNICEF can entrust the equipment being commissioned. There is no Social Mobilization Officer or Communication Officer for EPI. At the State level, the situation is hardly better. Therefore, to sustain the gains of the efforts of all partners, the MOH/GOSS is requested as a matter of priority to appoint and deploy the above officers as soon as possible. UNICEF and partners have been working in most cases without government officers at the appropriate level and this has security and sustainability implications for the programme.
UNICEF remains committed to supporting the immunization programme of Southern Sudan until such a time when the infrastructure which has been badly damaged during the two decades of war are re-constructed and rehabilitated. UNICEF will continue to support vaccine supply, capacity building, and advocacy and facilitate service delivery within the available resources.
For more information, contact;
Media and External Relations,
UNICEF-Southern Sudan Area Programme.
+8821643339905. Juba Mobile: +256 477103390
Dr Romanus Mkerenga,
Chief of Health and Nutrition UNICEF-Southern Sudan Area Programme.