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Second phase of Sudan national polio immunization campaign intensifies efforts against the virus

KHARTOUM, 22 March 2009 - The second round of National Immunization Days against polio will get underway on Monday 23 March in Sudan, as the country intensifies efforts to tackle the virus. Around 9 million children in every state of the country are being targeted in this latest initiative, which commences on Monday in the northern states and one day later in Southern Sudan.

To date in 2009, 18 confirmed cases of polio have been reported in Sudan compared to none in 2006. Cross-border transmission of the polio virus remains the greatest threat to global polio eradication, with recent cases in Sudan caused by such transmission. Four countries bordering Sudan reported polio cases in 2008, and two more in 2009. Well coordinated immunization efforts are therefore critical to wiping out this crippling virus.

In Sudan, the immunization drive is being coordinated by the Government of National Unity and the Government of Southern Sudan, through three day campaigns that witness thousands of vaccinators going door to door in every community to reach all children in the target age group of under-five year olds. In the first round of immunization, held in February, more than 9 million children across the whole of Sudan were immunized against polio through such campaigns.

While the national campaigns are successful in reaching large numbers of children over a short period, a key priority of health planners in Sudan remains improving routine vaccination coverage. Last week, the Government of Southern Sudan launched the Sudan Accelerated Child Survival Initiative for the ten southern states, bringing together a package of simple, cost-effective health services including polio and measles immunization, supported by training of local health workers, as part of a new approach to strengthening the delivery of integrated health services for women and children at community level.

Polio immunization efforts in Sudan are led by the Ministries of Health of the Government of National Unity and the Government of Southern Sudan, supported by UNICEF and WHO and assisted with funding from the Governments of Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States, Rotary International and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence.  The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS.  UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.

For more information, please contact:
Edward Carwardine, Chief, Media & External Relations, UNICEF Sudan, Mobile: +249 (0)912 177 291, Email: ecarwardine@unicef.org
Ms. Rana Sidani Cassou, Communications & Advocacy Officer, WHO Sudan, Mobile: +249 (0)912 167 754, Email: sidanir@sud.emro.who.int




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