Drive to eradicate Polio gives hope to returnees in Southern Sudan.
By Swangin Bismarck
Juba, Southern Sudan, Feb 22, 2011- Norah Abdelnabi, a 24 year old mother couldn’t hide her joy when her two year old son, Steven Kulang received the ‘two drops’ of the Polio Vaccine for the first time.
Kulang was born at home in the slums of Khartoum city in Northern Sudan where his family had lived after being displaced by the war in the South which ended in 2005. Two months after he was born, his parents decided to return to the South.
“I have always been afraid that my son could be attacked by Polio because he was not vaccinated but today me fear is relived”
Four days of the first round of the 2011 Polio National Immunization Days (NIDs) in Southern Sudan started Tuesday, February 22 to reach estimated 3.1 million children under the age of five.
“I have seen people crippled for life by Polio”, Ms Abdelnabi said. “I will be working with my neighbours to ensure that all our children are vaccinated so that they are safe”, she added.
In Rejaf, the location of the launch of the Polio campaign and where Ms Abdelnabi lives many families are beginning to rebuild having just returned from Northern Sudan where they had lived in internal displacement for at least more than a decade.
Hundreds of thousands of Southern Sudanese are streaming back from the north of the country following the conduct January 9 of a referendum. The outcome of the referendum is expected to split Sudan and lead to the formation of an independent country in the south July 9 when the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) signed in 2005 ending two decades of a North-South war comes to an end.
“These campaigns will continue until Southern Sudan is declared polio-free and all children are safe from polio. The polio vaccine is safe and even sick children can be vaccinated”, said Dr. Luka Monoja, Minister of Health in the Government of South Sudan.
There is no cure for Polio; it can only be prevented by the vaccine. Polio vaccine, given multiple times, can protect a child for life
“Polio is a dangerous disease that cripples children and can kill. Until polio is completely eradicated, all children in Southern Sudan are at risk of life-long polio paralysis or death. I urge all communities and their leaders to ensure that all children under the age of five are immunized”, said Dr. Yasmin Haque, Director for UNICEF Southern Sudan Area Programme.
The polio vaccination campaigns being coordinated by the Government of Southern Sudan’s Ministry of Health, WHO, and UNICEF are designed to get rid of the polio virus which re-emerged in Southern Sudan in April 2008. Since then vaccination has been intensified and no new cases have been reported since June 2009
Last year four successive rounds of the polio immunization were carried out with the last round conducted in December.
Across Southern Sudan, parents and guardians of children less than 5 years of age are being urged to ensure that their children receive the vaccine.
From February 22, thousands of vaccination teams will spread across Southern Sudan, a region the size of Eastern Europe and administer two drops of the Polio vaccine to all children under five years of age.
“The Polio virus doesn’t need a passport to cross borders and so we will continue to conduct these campaigns so long as Polio is not eradicated in Southern Sudan and in our immediate region”, said Dr. Haque.