Sudan: MSF collaborates with the Ministry of Health in the vaccination of 750,000 against yellow fever

The first phase of a yellow fever vaccination campaign, targeting 2.2 million people in the region of Darfur, ended on December 4, 2012. Launched by the Sudanese health authorities, the international, medical humanitarian organization Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) brought medical and logistical assistance in an effort to prevent an epidemic.

The campaign resulted in the vaccination of over 750,000 people. “We had very little time to prepare,” said MSF’s Kevin COPPOCK. “Fortunately, this year we set up an emergency response program. Within 24 hours we were able to mobilize emergency teams, drugs and medical supplies.” MSF supported the campaign in five localities in North and Central Darfur states, including Saraf Omra, Al Seraif, Wadi Salih, Azoum, and Zalinge.

With the Ministry of Health, MSF is currently tending to 68 patients suspected of having yellow fever in North Darfur. Joint medical teams have also treated 72 patients suspected of having yellow fever in Elgeniena hospital in West Darfur, and 62 patients in Zalinge hospital in Central Darfur.  

There is no specific treatment for yellow fever, so doctors focus on treating the symptoms of the disease, which include fever, jaundice and hemorrhage. Severe cases may lead to liver and kidney failure.

Fifty per cent of people infected with the most severe form of the disease will not survive (World Health Organization). As of December 19, 2012, 836 suspected yellow fever cases have been reported in the Darfur region, with 168 deaths (Sudan Ministry of Health).

Often yellow fever is endemic in remote areas, where health services are scarce, making it difficult for people to receive timely and effective treatment. “Yellow fever can spread very quickly,” added MSF’s Francisco Otero. “It takes just one laboratory-confirmed case to call it an outbreak. To protect people at risk, immediate vaccination is crucial.”

The vaccination campaign targeted adults and children over the age of nine months. MSF is also providing drugs and medical supplies to assist case management to health services in Saraf Omra and Al Seraif, training vaccination and health promotion teams, and taking part in epidemiological surveillance. MSF’s mobile team in Zalingi is conducting yellow fever active case detection, vector control and health education.

Médecins Sans Frontières has been providing medical assistance to the people of Sudan since 1979. Currently, MSF is running medical activities in North, East and South Darfur states, and Al-Gedaref and Sennar states. MSF offers basic and specialist healthcare, and responds to medical emergencies as needed.