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Press release

Spread of wild polio battled in Sudan with additional immunization campaigns

National Immunization Days provide unique opportunity for warring factions to stop polio transmission in Sudan

© UNICEF 2004
Conflict in the Darfur prevented the immunization of all children under the age of five in earlier campaigns.

Khartoum/Geneva/New York, 7 October, 2004 – With confirmation of eleven polio cases in Sudan in 2004, including in the capital city of Khartoum, the Ministry of Health, the World Health Organization, Rotary International and the UN Children’s Fund renewed their efforts to battle the crippling and sometimes fatal disease with additional immunization days beginning on Sunday.

The Sudan had been polio-free since April 2001. However, cross-border movement between Chad and Sudan re-introduced the poliovirus. Most of the cases have been linked genetically to poliovirus endemic to northern Nigeria. Moreover, conflict in the Darfur region of the Sudan, where the first polio case made its appearance, prevented the immunization of all children under the age of five in earlier campaigns.

“Armed conflict has contributed to the re-infection by the wild polio virus in Darfur that has now spread to the capital city, Khartoum”, said WHO Representative Guido Sabatinelli on Wednesday.

Epidemiologists of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative warned in June that outbreaks of polio in West Africa were a threat and could spread to other countries if not checked.  UNICEF Representative JoAnna van Gerpen noted that measles vaccination campaigns in Darfur and other parts of Sudan have been successful in preventing massive outbreaks of that deadly disease. “We hope to do the same with polio,” she said, “But the clock is ticking. If we don’t stop this right now, the potential for more cases is great.”

A double round of National Immunization Days (NIDs) is scheduled from 10-12 October and 21-23 November 2004, targeting 6 million children. This activity is part of a larger, regional campaign - 23 countries across west and central Africa are aiming to immunize more than 80 million children, to urgently stop the ongoing spread of polio in the region originating in northern Nigeria.  In addition to the Ministry of Health, WHO and UNICEF, partners include Rotary International, CDC Atlanta and several NGOs operating in Darfur and other parts of the country.

For further information, please contact:

Paula Claycomb, UNICEF Media, Khartoum: +249-12-309410 pclaycombe@unicef.org
Gordon Weiss, UNICEF Media, New York: +212-326-7426 gweiss@unicef.org
Anis Salem, UNICEF Regional Communication Adviser, Amman: +962-6-553-9977, asalem@unicef.org
Damien Personnaz, UNICEF Media, Geneva: Mobile: +41-79-216-94-01, dpersonnaz@unicef.org

Fadéla Chaib, WHO Geneva, 41 79 475 5556, chaibf@who.int
Yvette Bivigou, WHO Public Information Officer, Khartoum:  +249-912-167501 bivigouy@sud.emro.who.int
Guido Sabatinelli, WHO Sudan Representative, Sabatinellig@sud.emro.who.int





Related links

Eradicating polio

Audio interview

11 October 2004: Interview with UNICEF Representative in Sudan, Joanna Van Gerpen about the polio immunization campaign.

Audio clip [mp3]

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