UN appeals for peace during anti-polio vaccination campaign in Sudan

A senior United Nations official called on the Government of Sudan and the leaders of armed groups to ensure that the teams inoculating children against the paralyzing polio virus can move about in safety during an 11-day immunization campaign that starts tomorrow.

"It is crucial that all troops and armed forces refrain from any activity that would hamper the smooth conduct of the vaccination campaign," the Humanitarian Coordinator and Deputy Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General (SRSG) for the Sudan, Manuel da Silva, said.

Sudan, which has a new peace agreement in the south and a preliminary agreement in the western Darfur region, was declared polio-free in April 2001, but the virus surfaced again in May 2004. A series of National Immunization Days (NIDs), spearheaded by the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the UN World Health Organization (WHO), have been carried out since October 2004.

During this latest campaign, between 8 and 18 July, some 40,000 volunteers will immunize at least 5 million children under 5 years of age.

"It is in everybody's interest that this epidemic is contained as soon as possible," Mr. da Silva said. "Otherwise, the consequences for the Sudanese people and neighbouring countries may be disastrous. All Sudanese parties must rise to the occasion and shoulder their responsibility towards their own people."