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Polio immunization campaign to protect nearly five million children in northern Sudan

Additional effort comes in face of polio case reported in neighbouring Chad

KHARTOUM, 6 August 2007 - An estimated 4.9 million children across northern Sudan are being targeted in a special round of polio immunization beginning on Monday 6 August. Led by the Ministry of Health and backed by UNICEF, WHO and other partners, the three-day campaign to protect children against the virus comes in response to reports of polio being discovered in neighbouring Chad.

UNICEF Representative Ted Chaiban noted that Sudan has not reported any cases of polio itself since 2005. “There has not been a single case of polio in Sudan since June 2005, and we have arrived – in the face of many challenges – to a point where polio could soon be stamped out in Sudan,” he said. “But because polio respects no borders, we have to ensure that when cases are found close to home, we redouble our efforts to protect children.”

Regular polio immunization campaigns have taken place throughout Sudan, including conflict-affected Darfur where UNICEF, WHO and other agencies have managed to advocate for safe access for vaccinators. However with increased population displacement, porous borders with neighbouring countries and continued insecurity being a threat to vaccination efforts, there are major logistical challenges to the campaign. In addition, recent heavy rains and flooding in many parts of the north of Sudan has made access even more of a challenge.

The immunization drive will cover all 15 states in the northern Sudan, with planners hoping to reach at least 82 per cent of children under the age of five during the three day effort, with further children reached in currently inaccessible areas in the near future. Tens of thousands of vaccinators are travelling house to house, administering the oral polio vaccine.

The last three-day vaccination campaign took place at the end of April 2007 when more than 6 million children were reached. Sudan stages regular campaigns during the year, with funding and vaccine provided by UNICEF and training for volunteer vaccinators and half of the campaign’s operational costs being supported by WHO. Vaccinators themselves are sourced through local State Ministries of Health, NGOs and from amongst local communities.

WHO Representative Dr. Mohamed Aburrab underscored that surveillance is equally important to the success of Sudan’s polio eradication programme, “In order to eradicate polio, it is necessary to search out not only the polio cases, but also conditions that may also clinically resemble polio.” Since 2000, the Federal Ministry of Health and WHO have established an active and sensitive Acute Flaccid Paralysis surveillance system in Sudan.

The polio eradication effort in Sudan is supported by a number of donors, including CDC, Rotary International, USAID, DFID, the Government of Japan, the World Bank, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.


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About UNICEF
UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence.  The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.

For further information, please contact:

Edward Carwardine, Senior Communication Officer, UNICEF Sudan; Mobile:  +249 (0)912 177 291: Email ecarwardine@unicef.org

Christina Banluta, Communications Officer, WHO Sudan: Mobile: +249 (0)912 167 754: Email banlutac@sud.emro.who.int

Jessica Malter, UNICEF Media NY, +1 212 326 – 7412, jmalter@unicef.org


 

 

 

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