UN calls for observance of days of security in Sudan during polio vaccination campaign

KHARTOUM - 6 July 2005 - On the road to eradicate poliovirus, WHO, UNICEF and national and international NGOs are joining efforts with the Sudanese Ministry of Health in order to conduct an additional immunization campaign. WHO reported that as of 10 April 2005, 152 polio cases have been identified in 18 of Sudan's 26 states since mid-2004 when polio first reappeared after a three-year hiatus.

The Humanitarian Coordinator and Deputy of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the Sudan, Manuel da Silva, is appealing to the Government of Sudan, the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) and to the other groups in Southern Sudan as well as in Darfur, namely the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army (SLM/A), the Justice and Equability Movement (JEM) and to other armed groups to secure the safety of the vaccination teams in the period mentioned above. "It is crucial that all troops and armed forces refrain from any activity that would hamper the smooth conduct of the vaccination campaign," he said. He added that "it is in everybody's interest that this epidemic is contained as soon as possible. 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."

To stop the poliovirus circulation, a series of National Immunization Days (NIDS) have been carried out since October 2004. While five NIDs were foreseen for 2005, one additional campaign is deemed necessary to protect Sudanese children and children in neighbouring countries. The campaign will be organized between 8 - 18 July of 2005 and will cover at least 5 million children under 5 years of age. Approximately 40,000 volunteers will take part in the campaign.

Sudan had been polio-free since April 2001 until the re-introduction of the polio virus in May 2004. Polio affects mostly children under five years of age and can cripple them for life. Several factors have contributed to the re-introduction of the virus. One is cross-border movement, allowing individuals to carry the contagious poliovirus into Sudan and exposing unvaccinated children to the disease. Another factor is continued conflict, particularly in the western Darfur region, which has prevented vaccination teams from reaching all children under five. Thirdly, as epidemiological data suggested that polio had disappeared, the limited financial resources were used in countries where the situation appeared more urgent. Finally, Sudan has a relatively low rate of routine coverage, with a high number of unvaccinated children who are susceptible to contracting and passing on the five major childhood diseases.

For more information contact:

UNICEF, Paula Claycomb, + 249-912-309410,

WHO, Sacha Bootsma, + 0912 174 679,