Insecurity hinders polio vaccination campaign in Abyei 

Acting Head of EPI, Sarah Ayuel administers polio vaccine at Abyei Hospital, Abyei town

Insecurity has delayed the arrival of the polio vaccines in some villages of Abyei Administrative Area.

 The area-wide vaccination of children from birth to 5 years started on Tuesday and ended on Friday last week but many villages located north of the river locally known as Kiir were not reached due fear of attack. These villages are Marial-Achaak, Kolom, Miodol, Tajalei, Leu and Dungob.

In 2018, unknown gunmen attacked a vehicle, killing the driver and injuring others. The vehicle was carrying polio vaccines and vaccination team to Tajalei, Mijak county.

“We did not get a convoy to take us there. We are still waiting because of the security situation. UNISFA’s force did not come up to now but we are ready. And if they do not come, we cannot go there because of security problem,” the Acting Head of Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI), Sarah Ayuel told Abyei FM on Monday.

Last year, some children in remote villages missed out on polio vaccines. Kat Malual, Tajalei resident criticized the administration for failure to reach their children with life-saving vaccines.

“During the vaccination in November, children did not get vaccinated. And now also they are not vaccinated. Security situation cannot prevent people from vaccination,” Malual said.

 The official stated that only 5,800 children – about 32 percent of the targeted population of children got the vaccines in the four days of the campaign. The target was to reach 1,7780 in the disputed region of Abyei. 

The house-to-house vaccination of children is carried out by Abyei health administration in collaboration with South Sudan’s health ministry with support from World Health Organization (WHO) and its partners.

In August last year, South Sudan along other African countries was declared free of wild polio. But a few months later, the world’s youngest nation recorded 15 cases of vaccine-driven polio. 5 of these cases were in the neighboring Warrap state. 

The Acting Head of Health in Abyei Administrative Area, Nyanwut Mayen assured that the vaccines would reach areas that were not covered during the four-day vaccination campaign. She said polio vaccination team will be escorted by UNISFA’s soldiers went to Tajalei on Monday. Vaccination is very important for protection of children, she added.

Polio, scientifically called poliomyelitis is a disabling and life-threatening disease caused by the poliovirus. The virus spreads from person to person and can infect a person’s spinal cord, causing paralysis.

According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – CDC, about 1 out of 4 people with poliovirus infection will have flu-like symptoms that may include sore throat, fever, tiredness, nausea, headache, and stomach pain. These symptoms usually last 2 to 5 days, then go away on their own.

CDC says, between 2 and 10 out of 100 people who have paralysis from poliovirus infection die, because the virus affects the muscles that help them breathe. While polio has no cure, it can be prevented using a vaccine.