Carrying out vaccination programmes in conflict areas has long been a priority for humanitarian organizations despite the logistic and security problems that are sometimes involved. So when ICRC delegates based in Chelkou, in the Bahr al-Ghazal region of southern Sudan, were approached by the population, the local authorities and the Sudan Relief and Rehabilitation Association on the subject, they responded immediately. As part of the ICRC's ongoing primary health-care activities in the area, the delegates undertook to train nine health workers in vaccination procedures and to set up a far-reaching immunization programme.
The nine workers, who were trained by two ICRC health delegates from 17 to 31January, have now passed their final exams and are ready to take up their tasks. When the programme starts up in March, its aims will be twofold. Regular immunization sessions will be organized at the ICRC's primary health-care unit for people living in Chelkou and nearby villages. In addition, outreach sessions will be held for the inhabitants of remote villages. The goal is to cover 70% of the population in the Chelkou area.
The new programme will further heighten the impact of the health services which the ICRC has been providing in the area for many months. In the past, these have included training for health workers in disinfection procedures, dressing techniques and traditional midwifery. At present, the ICRC's antenatal clinic is vaccinating pregnant women against tetanus. Such activities have helped improve the health of those living in the area, which is currently controlled by the Sudanese People's Liberation Army (SPLA).