25 August 2008 - Official remarks at the launch of a polio immunization campaign, at Wad Medani
Your Excellency the Minister of Health, Your Excellency the Wali of Gezira State, distinguished representatives of the health ministries and departments, colleagues and partners from the UN and NGO community.
Today marks a critical step in protecting the lives of children in Sudan, and helping the country move closer to its goal of eradicating polio; a disease that not only paralyzes children but – through its negative impact on childhood development – can also cripple their potential.
Sudan began its efforts to eradicate polio in 1994 and since then immunization campaigns such as the one we are launching today have been conducted on a regular basis. Thousands of volunteers have systematically accessed communities far and wide across the country – even in parts of conflict-affected Darfur, where the importance of these efforts have enabled us to successfully advocate for vaccinators to reach children in safety.
The threat of polio remains ever-present. A positive case appeared last year in South Darfur, while this year we have seen cases reported in West Darfur and in Jonglei States. Thanks to the continued polio immunization campaigns which have raised the immunity of children, we have thankfully not seen a widespread escalation in cases.
The polio virus knows no boundaries, and respects no borders. That is why we must remain ever-vigilant and why today UNICEF is proud to join with WHO and other agencies in support of the federal and state ministries of health to implement three consecutive campaigns, ensuring our children are protected.
The first of these campaigns, commencing today and lasting for three days, will target 4.9 million children under the age of five. 30,000 vaccinators will move from house to house to vaccinate children while 5,000 supervisors will ensure that the work is of the highest quality.
They will face inevitable challenges – the effects of population displacements, the movement of people across borders, insecurity in some areas and – at this time of year – the impact of the rainy season on movement and access. But we are resolved to leave no child out, which is why the following campaigns will ensure that we reach any child who may have been missed in this first round.
While we commend those volunteers, and encourage families to make their children available for vaccination, we must also augment cross-border collaboration between Sudan and its neighbours to synchronize polio campaigns with Chad and Ethiopia. For its part, UNICEF will continue to provide the material and financial support for these campaigns, and work tirelessly with our friends in the international donor community such as Japan, the United States and Rotary International to ensure that every resource is made available to eradicate polio in Sudan.
I wish you good luck, and good speed and I remain ever-confident that we will soon see a Sudan free from polio, and filled with potential for its children.