14 February 2009 - Remarks by Dr. Iyabode Olusanmi, Acting Representative, UNICEF Sudan, at the launch of National Immunization Days against polio in Sudan, El Fasher
Your Excellency the Federal Minister of Health, Your Excellency the North Darfur State Minister of Health, distinguished colleagues from the State Government of North Darfur, colleagues from UN agencies and non-governmental organizations, ladies and gentlemen.
Today represents another important step to eradicate polio across Sudan.
Polio places an enormous burden on Sudan and its people – requiring massive resources for immunization campaigns such as those being launched today, and demanding considerable efforts from thousands of health workers.
There are longer-term social costs associated with polio as well. Children affected by polio often miss out on their education, and their chances of finding employment in adult life can also be diminished. Families face financial and emotional pressure in caring for a child with a polio-related disability.
For these reasons, the concerted efforts by the Government of Sudan and its partners to tackle polio are critically important. Just two years ago, Sudan was effectively free of polio, but last year alone we witnessed 26 new cases across the country.
Your Excellency, ladies and gentlemen, together we can beat polio in Sudan. Together we will beat polio in Sudan.
Over the coming days, both in the northern states of Sudan and in Southern Sudan, some 9 million children will be immunized against the virus. Tens of thousands of vaccinators will work across every state, in every community, to ensure that children receive the two little drops of vaccine that will protect them from polio, and safeguard the whole of Sudan.
This endeavour requires the commitment of many partners.
We know that polio does not respect national or local borders, requiring us to work with neighbouring countries to synchronise vaccination efforts.
We know that just one child missed can result in a new case being discovered in the future, so every family must ensure they present all their children under the age of five to the vaccination teams.
We know that close monitoring is essential to preventing new cases, so local health authorities must ensure that surveillance and reporting systems are in place and that follow-up immunization takes place in any areas where children may not have been reached.
Ultimately, we must strengthen the routine immunization of children against all childhood diseases. This will need continued support from our friends in the donor community – friends such as the Governments of Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States, Rotary International and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation who are supporting current efforts – to ensure that Sudan has more trained health workers and fully equipped community health facilities that families can access on a regular basis for immunization and other services.
The government of Sudan – at national and state level – must also ensure that adequate financial and human resources are made available to support the expansion of community-based health programmes.
Your Excellencies, I appreciate the importance that you have placed upon polio immunization here in Sudan and commend your determination to eradicate the disease. UNICEF will continue to support those efforts, alongside sister agencies such as WHO. Together we remain confident that we will win the fight against polio, and that Sudan will soon be declared “polio free” and children will no longer be threatened by the virus.
I wish you all every success in this National Immunization Day campaign.