Uganda–South Sudan Cross Border Meeting on Polio Eradication Held

The 2nd Cross-Border Collaborative meeting to strengthen surveillance as a response to the Wild Polio Virus outbreak in Somalia and Kenya was successfully held on 11 July 2013 at Morobo County in Central Equatoria State, South Sudan. The first meeting was carried out in Kajo-Keji County in the same state on 2 July 2013.  The initiative is supported by CORE Group South Sudan with funding from Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Opened by Mr. Simon Soro, Morobo County Commissioner, the one-day meeting brought together seventy-nine participants from South Sudan and Uganda, including representatives from the two neighboring areas Koboko (Uganda) and Morobo (South Sudan).  Additional delegates from NGO partners attended the meeting and played a major facilitating role. The participants discussed their experiences with cross-border coordination activities.

The objectives of the meeting were to coordinate, collaborate and share information between South Sudan and Uganda on the status of polio eradication initiative; identify migrant, mobile and hard to reach populations along the South Sudan-Uganda border and agree on strategies of how they can be reached; discuss mechanisms of strengthening surveillance and addressing population immunity gaps along the borders; and strengthen advocacy, communication and social mobilization for polio eradication along the border areas.

With a population of 147,355 Morobo is one of the six counties within Central Equatoria State in South Sudan. It borders Koboko District in Uganda and Aru District in the Democratic Republic of Congo and has many entry and exit routes as well as informal crossing points.  Strategies for reaching out to migrant populations require constant innovation since mobile groups such agriculturalists and returning South Sudanese from Uganda are hard to track and vary in their requirements.

“Awareness information sharing among health experts of the two countries and the use of community radio stations to disseminate health education messages to our respective communities are paramount,” Morobo County Commissioner Simon Soro told participants as he officiated the opening of the meeting.

Participants were shown four PowerPoint presentations, including Polio Eradication Initiative – Global Situation; the Status of EPI/SIAs in Central Equatoria State with a summary of AFP surveillance indicators from January 2008 to June 2013; Social Mobilization for Polio Eradication in Central Equatoria State; Immunization Trends in Koboko District – Uganda and Insights into Polio Eradication; the Morobo County Health Department brief on the Routine Immunization with static and outreaches, Polio SIAs, community-based surveillance and progress made after the last DR Congo – South Sudan cross-border meeting.

Nimule County in Eastern Equatoria will host the third meeting on 17 July 2013, which will be followed by the final one between Kenya and South Sudan in Kapoeta East, in the same state.  A comprehensive report will be drafted for all the four cross border meetings before the next Horn of Africa TAG meeting due to take place in November 2013.