A cool delivery

14th August 2016

MAF flew a consignment of measles vaccines to Aweil in the north of South Sudan, enabling our partner Medair to vaccinate an astounding 49,483 babies and children and halt the spread of a large-scale measles outbreak that was tragically claiming many young lives.

Looking at the six large coolers securely tied down in the back of our Cessna Caravan, MAF Pilot Chris Ball said these were the biggest coolers he’d ever seen. The coolers, measuring 3 feet long by 2 feet high, held thousands of vaccines to immunise between 40,000-60,000 children.

‘It was,’ Chris said, ‘a pretty amazing sight.’

‘I’m very happy because now my children will be free from measles’

Mary, beneficiary

49,483 babies and children

Alicia Morcombe, Medair’s Health Manager, explains how the need for the vaccination campaign had become apparent. ‘Medair came to Aweil for a multi-sector assessment, and it became clear very quickly that health needs were a huge priority.

‘The more communities we visited, the more people told us of children dying of measles. We even heard about one community that was burying children every day who had died from preventable diseases, including measles.’

No time to lose

Children rarely die of measles in the UK because they are routinely immunised against a range of childhood diseases.

It is a level of provision that is rare in South Sudan, where conflict and an under-funded health system – coupled with high rates of malnutrition and poor living conditions – leave children even more susceptible to this highly contagious disease.

‘There was no time to lose after our assessment,’ Alicia recalls. ‘We were able to launch the measles campaign in a week. Medair contacted MAF to request a flight from Juba to Aweil to deliver the vaccines as quickly as possible.

‘It was imperative that the measles vaccines were kept cool. Along and bumpy trip on insecure roads was out of the question. The vaccines wouldn’t remain cool enough.

Going village to village

Just three hours after take-off, Chris landed in Aweil and unloaded the huge coolers of vaccines. Over 40 Medair teams consisting of 290 local staff then travelled village to village, providing measles vaccinations to thousands of children.

‘There was no time to lose after our assessment – we were able to launch the measles campaign in a week’

Alicia Morcombe, Medair’s Health Manager

At each vaccination site, hundreds of mothers lined up with their little ones, eager for their sons and daughters to receive the life-saving vaccines.

Mary, a mother of five, expressed her relief and thanks. ‘Measles is very dangerous, so I’m very happy because now my children will be free from measles. If Medair hadn’t done the measles campaign, the outbreak would have left a trail of destruction behind, and there would have been many deaths.’

Ruth Burns, a Health Project Manager for Medair, echoes her thanks. ‘We’re extremely grateful for MAF’s support and contribution to our life-saving measles vaccination campaign in Aweil North. We couldn’t have done it without them.’