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Sudan starts campaign to vaccinate 4 mln children against polio

July 17 - 2018 KHARTOUM
Field visit to East Nile locality as part of the Polio Immunization campaign in Sudan. (Ajyal Sultany/UN)
Field visit to East Nile locality as part of the Polio Immunization campaign in Sudan. (Ajyal Sultany/UN)

Sudan’s federal Ministry of Health, with the support of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations International Children’s Fund (UNICEF) launched a national immunisation campaign to maintain the country's polio-free status.

The National Immunization Days (NID) will be conducted over two phases, with a target of reaching a total of 4.2 million children under five years of age. The first phase , which aims to reach every child under five with the vaccine, will take place from 16-18 July 2018, covering ten states and approximately three million children in 79 localities with oral polio vaccine.

“The Government of Sudan has committed itself to keep Sudan polio-free meeting the international community goal.  This is part of ensuring overall health security,” said Bahar Abugarda, the federal Minister of Health. “Our deep appreciation goes to the thousands of Sudanese health volunteers, the UN and other health partners, as well as the international community, for continuing their support for immunization services in Sudan. Their additional assistance during this important polio campaign is key to ensuring children in Sudan have access to these life-saving vaccines.”

“Keeping Sudan polio-free has been a major strategic priority for WHO, the Government, and health partners,” says Dr. Naeema El Gasseer, WHO Representative in Sudan. “Our biggest challenge now is to ensure sensitive surveillance system is in place to detect and effectively respond  to any potential circulation of polio, particularly given the outbreaks in the Horn of Africa. Hence with the support of WHO, we are establishing environmental surveillance to supplemnt the existing system. So far, with the committed leadership of the Government, support from donors and strong collaboration among partners, we have been able to consistently reach over 90 percent of targeted children annually since 2009.”

During this polio campaign, approximately 23,490 health workers will step-up efforts to conduct house-to-house visits to administer more than 4 million doses of the vaccine to children under five to re-enforce their immunity againstwild poliovirus.

Sudan was announced polio-free in 2015 by WHO and has reported no cases of polio since  March 2009. However, it continues to be among the region’s polio ‘high risk’ due to vulnerable populations living in many parts of the country.

All polio heath partners in Sudan received funding from the Bill and Melinda Gate Foundation, Rotary International, GAVI, as well as support from the Department for International Development (DFID)-United Kingdom, United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and  the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation.

The statement by the WHO today adds that critical immediate and longer-term funding gaps continue to exist. The Federal Ministry of Health, the WHO, and UNICEF appeal to the wider international community to support their efforts to ensure millions of children in Sudan receive life-saving interventions, including polio and routine immunization.

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