Nairobi: Fifteen young children have died in a botched measles vaccination campaign that saw people as young as 12 years old administering the vaccines, South Sudan's government announced on Friday.
The health ministry blamed the deaths on human error. One syringe was used for all the children, and the vaccine was not stored properly.
Measles is yet another challenge facing the desperately poor country that has already been devastated by more tha three years of civil war and a recently declared famine, a well as a cholera outbreak.
The government said all of the children who died were under the age of five. It is setting up a commission to determine who is responsible and whether victims' families will be compensated.
The measles vaccination campaign is targeting more than millions of children across the country. About 300 children were targeted in the area where the children's deaths occurred.
The children died in the town of Kapoeta in early May and other children have become gravely ill after the vaccination campaign.
Abdulmumini Usman, the South Sudan country director for the World Health Organisation, told The Associated Pres earlier this week that even after the organisation became aware of the deaths, the measles campaign continued across the country except in Kapoeta.
"This campaign is lifesaving," Usman said.
WHO provides some training to South Sudan's health officials and the UN children's agency provides the vaccine to the government. It was not immediately clear whether any UN officials were present at the time of the botched vaccinations.
Dr Samson Baba, an immunisation official in the ministry of health, refused to comment on the deaths earlier this week and instead demanded the source of the information. South Sudan's government on Friday said vaccinations are no being denied to any part of the country, including those held by opposition forces.
The civil war has killed tens of thousands and sent more than 1.8 million people fleeing the country, creating the world's fastest-growing refugee crisis.
In 2016, South Sudan had at least 2,294 measles cases and 28 people died, according to UN data.
Published Date: Jun 02, 2017 06:36 pm | Updated Date: Jun 02, 2017 06:36 pm