Press release

Severe measles outbreak threatens thousands in South Sudan

27 March 2019

Paola Barioli

Media Relations Officer

6 March 2019, Juba, South Sudan: More than 75,000 measles vaccines have been airlifted to South Sudan’s Gogrial West County in response to an outbreak declared by the State Ministry of Health. There are 98 suspected measles cases, with one death reported. Medair, an international humanitarian organisation, has mobilised an Emergency Response Team to vaccinate children under five years of age in an area where the population is estimated at over 400,000 people. The campaign is expected to be conducted from 7–17 March 2019.

Responding to this measles outbreak is made even more urgent by high levels of Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) among children in Gogrial West County[1].

“This is an area where the people are incredibly vulnerable,” said Jennifer Turner, Health Manager with Medair’s Emergency Response Team. “Children who are malnourished are more at risk of being infected with measles, and the complications are often more severe. The food insecurity in this region is rated at ‘Crisis’ level. [2]

To reach so many children with vaccinations over a short period of time, Medair will train and deploy more than 800 people from the affected communities who will work steadily for 10 days. Teams of eight will head out each day carrying a supply of vaccines which must be kept cold despite daytime temperatures of 40C. During shipping, storage, and distribution, the ice packs will be frozen using generator power and, where available, solar-powered vaccine fridges. All vaccines and supplies must be transported by air from Juba.

Measles is a highly infectious transmissible disease spread mainly by coughing and sneezing from the nose, mouth, or throat of infected people, causing fever, runny nose, red eyes, and a rash. Complications of measles can include pneumonia, diarrhoea, and encephalitis, an infection causing swelling in the brain. Worldwide, measles is the leading cause of vaccine-preventable deaths in infants[3].

Medair South Sudan’s Emergency Response Team is always available to respond to health care emergencies. In 2018, the team completed 23 emergency interventions in health, nutrition, water and sanitation, and the distribution of critical items.

Please contact:  

In South Sudan:  Sue O’Connor, Communications Officer (English)
+211 (0)92 747 5150

In Switzerland:    Paola Barioli, Media and Press Officer (English, French, Italian)
+41 (0) 78 635 30 95

Medair’s South Sudan programme is supported by the European Commission, the United States Agency for International Development, Common Humanitarian Fund, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, UK aid from the UK government, and private donors.

Photos of Medair’s work in South Sudan are available in high resolution. Please email Sue O’Connor:

For more information on Medair’s South Sudan programme, click here.

This content was produced with resources gathered by Medair field and Global Support Office staff. The views expressed herein are those solely of Medair and should not be taken, in any way, to reflect the official opinion of any other organisation.


[1] South Sudan: Gogrial West, Twic and Mayom Counties: Food Security and Livelihood Profile (October 2018)

[2] Integrated Food Security Phase Classification, January-July 2019

[3] United States Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, 16/02/2018