LONDON, Aug 26 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) said it had begun its first mass vaccination campaign against cholera, for South Sudanese refugees in Ethiopia’s Gambella region.
The campaign will protect refugees from South Sudan, where a cholera epidemic was declared in June amid fighting between government troops and rebels, as well as the host community, the international medical charity said.
Cholera is endemic in the Gambella region, and overcrowding and poor sanitation in the area’s refugee camps could provide a perfect breeding ground for the disease, it said.
The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has registered more than 185,000 South Sudanese refugees in the region.
More than 300 MSF staff have been deployed in the refugee camps and surrounding villages to carry out the campaign, and are using both fixed sites and mobile teams to ensure they reach the largest possible number of people.
The cholera vaccine is given in two doses, and 151,723 people, 85 percent of the refugee population, were vaccinated in the first round of the campaign. The second round began on Aug. 15 and will last two weeks.
Those vaccinated are also provided with a bar of soap, a reminder that good hygiene is crucial to preventing further outbreaks.
The campaign is supervised by the Administration for Refugee and Returnee Affairs (ARRA) and has technical support from U.N. agencies including the World Health Organization, the UNHCR and UNICEF, MSF said.
“The vaccine against cholera is taken orally, is easy to administer, and is more than 60 percent effective,” said Madi Foura Sassou, MSF’s emergency coordinator in Gambella. “However, the campaign requires a great deal of organisation, in terms of logistics and staff.” (Editing by Tim Pearce)