- As part of continuing efforts to eradicate polio from Sudan, government authorities, along with foreign partners, today launched their latest mass campaign aimed at immunising 8 million children under the age of five against the disease. While polio was earlier eradicated in Sudan, imported cases from Nigeria have made a new vaccination campaign necessary.
Sudan, despite the many armed conflicts raging in the vast country, has had a quite successful past in its fight against polio. Enormous immunisation campaigns on all sides of the fronts led to an eradication of indigenous polio virus in Sudan long before in Egypt and Nigeria.
During 2004, however, new cases of polio were reported in Sudan, and have spread eastwards to the Horn and Yemen since that. The transmissions had spread from Northern Nigeria, where religious protests had led to a halt in vaccination campaigns and a new spread of the virus.
The total number of confirmed polio cases in Sudan in 2004 was 127. Since that, new and successful mass immunisations have taken place. During the first half of last year, only 27 cases were reported and no new cases of polio have been reported in the country since June 2005. Nevertheless "continued attention and vigilance" was still needed, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), the two UN agencies that coordinate the worldwide fight to eradicate polio once and for all.
Sudanese authorities, with the aid of WHO, UNICEF and other international partners, therefore today is launching yet another mass immunisation campaign, to make sure that new generations are resistant to the paralysing virus. A total of 8 million Sudanese children under the age of five are now being vaccinated against the disease.
WHO and UNICEF in a statement today said that "the immunisation drive is crucial if further cases of infection are to be avoided among children." The organising of the mass campaign again is facing many difficulties and challenges.
The campaigns are synchronised to happen simultaneously throughout the country, and therefore also will be carried out in war affected regions such as Darfur. "Reaching the children living in areas under conflict in Darfur is crucial to build the population immunity. The cooperation of armed groups is essential to avoid creating an immunisation gap threatening the achievements of 2004 and 2005," the two UN agencies said.
Earlier this month a core group of international partners, including UNICEF and WHO, said the number of countries with indigenous polio had dropped to an all-time low of four. Announcing that indigenous polio finally had been eradicated in Egypt and Niger, the group said this left only Nigeria, India, Pakistan and Afghanistan as the sole remaining countries yet to have stopped indigenous polio transmission.
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