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25 August 2008‎ - Official remarks at the launch of a polio immunization campaign, at Wad Medani

Your Excellency the Minister of Health, Your Excellency the Wali of Gezira State, ‎distinguished representatives of the health ministries and departments, colleagues and partners ‎from the UN and NGO community.‎

Today marks a critical step in protecting the lives of children in Sudan, and helping the ‎country move closer to its goal of eradicating polio; a disease that not only paralyzes children but ‎‎– through its negative impact on childhood development – can also cripple their potential.‎

Sudan began its efforts to eradicate polio in 1994 and since then immunization campaigns ‎such as the one we are launching today have been conducted on a regular basis. Thousands of ‎volunteers have systematically accessed communities far and wide across the country – even in ‎parts of conflict-affected Darfur, where the importance of these efforts have enabled us to ‎successfully advocate for vaccinators to reach children in safety.   ‎

The threat of polio remains ever-present. A positive case appeared last year in South ‎Darfur, while this year we have seen cases reported in West Darfur and in Jonglei States. Thanks ‎to the continued polio immunization campaigns which have raised the immunity of children, we ‎have thankfully not seen a widespread escalation in cases. ‎

The polio virus knows no boundaries, and respects no borders. That is why we must ‎remain ever-vigilant and why today UNICEF is proud to join with WHO and other agencies in ‎support of the federal and state ministries of health to implement three consecutive campaigns, ‎ensuring our children are protected.  ‎

The first of these campaigns, commencing today and lasting for three days, will target 4.9 ‎million children under the age of five. 30,000 vaccinators will move from house to house to ‎vaccinate children while 5,000 supervisors will ensure that the work is of the highest quality.  ‎

They will face inevitable challenges – the effects of population displacements, the ‎movement of people across borders, insecurity in some areas and – at this time of year – the ‎impact of the rainy season on movement and access. But we are resolved to leave no child out, ‎which is why the following campaigns will ensure that we reach any child who may have been ‎missed in this first round. ‎

While we commend those volunteers, and encourage families to make their children ‎available for vaccination, we must also augment cross-border collaboration between Sudan and ‎its neighbours to synchronize polio campaigns with Chad and Ethiopia. For its part, UNICEF ‎will continue to provide the material and financial support for these campaigns, and work ‎tirelessly with our friends in the international donor community such as Japan, the United States ‎and Rotary International to ensure that every resource is made available to eradicate polio in ‎Sudan. ‎

I wish you good luck, and good speed and I remain ever-confident that we will soon see a ‎Sudan free from polio, and filled with potential for its children.‎



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