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Drive to eradicate polio gives hope to returnees in Southern Sudan

© UNICEF Sudan/2011/Swangin
Two month old Kulang receives two drops of the Polio Vaccine during the launch of the first round of the 2011 National Immunization Days.

By Bismarck Swangin

JUBA, Southern Sudan, 22 February 2011 – The first round of the 2011 Polio National Immunization Days in Southern Sudan begins this week and is expected to reach an estimated 3.1 million children. 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 the age of five.

Vaccine brings relief

Norah Abdelnabi, 24, couldn’t hide her joy when her two-year-old son, Steven Kulang received the ‘two drop’ 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 my fear is relieved. I have seen people crippled for life by polio,” said an emotional Ms. Abdelnabi.

More than 180,000 Southern Sudanese are streaming back from the north of the country following a recent referendum which is expected to split Sudan and lead to the formation of a southern independent country this July when the Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed in 2005 ending two decades of a North-South war comes to an end.

Polio-free future

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 back in April 2008. Since then, vaccination has been intensified and no new cases have been reported since June 2009.

“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 H.E. Dr Luka Monoja, Minister of Health in the Government of South Sudan
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.

“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.



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