By Oketayot Santo
The National Ministry of Health and partners on Wednesday launched an immunization coverage guideline to addressing, coverage, inequity, and resilience in immunization programs across the country.
Speaking during the launch in Juba, Director-General for Primary Health care in the Ministry of Health, Atem Nathan Riak, said the National Reach Every County (REC) guideline aims at improving coverage for immunization from the current 80 percent reach to over 95 percent.
“There are children who have not been able to be accessed because the mothers at times are busy so those are the children we want this strategy to help us reach them,” he said.
Nathan revealed that South Sudan has just completed a five years strategic health plan and have developed a new five years health plan that they received funding from GAVI for its implementation in which the REC guideline should use the tools in the health plan for the implementation.
For his part, Victor Sule, immunization manager for UNICEF South Sudan said the REC guideline comes at a time when the global community is witnessing stagnation in immunization coverage and a rise in number of zero dose children across the world.
“Just recently in April 2023, the world immunization week was celebrated, and UNICEF`s state of the world`s children (SOWC) 2023 was released. Both events underscored the need to address the global rising zero dose and under vaccinated children putting at about 12.4 million without basic, routine vaccine every year,” Sule said
He noted that joint estimates on immunizations coverage puts the coverage of PENTA 1, an important base vaccine covering five life threatening diseases at only 51 percent in 2021 which indicates an alarming over 200,000 zero dose children.
Sule stressed that the REC Guidelines will help facilitate reaching children in hard to reach communities and ensuring equity in immunization services.
For his part, Dr Fabian Ndenzako, World Health Organization (WHO) representative in South Sudan said launch of the REC strategic document is a significant step toward achieving universal immunization coverage in South Sudan.
He stressed that REC is made operational will accelerate the progress towards the Immunization Agenda 2030 Goals, Triple Billion Goals and U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as well as act as a pathway towards Universal Health Coverage.