Additional effort comes in face of polio case reported in neighbouring Chad
An estimated 4.9 million children across the north of Sudan will be targeted in a special round of polio immunization starting on Monday 6 August. Led by the Ministry of Health and backed by UNICEF, WHO and other partners, the three day campaign to protect children against the virus comes in response to reports of polio being discovered in neighbouring Chad.
Speaking today, UNICEF Representative Ted Chaiban noted that Sudan had not reported any cases of polio itself since 2005. “There has not been a single case of polio in Sudan since June 2005, and we have arrived – in the face of many challenges – to a point where polio could soon be stamped out in Sudan,” he said. “But because polio respects no borders, we have to ensure that when cases are found close to home, we redouble our efforts to protect children.”
WHO Representative Dr Mohamed Aburrab underscored that surveillance is equally important to the success of Sudan’s polio eradication programme, adding “In order to eradicate polio, it is necessary to search out not only the polio cases, but also conditions that may also clinically resemble polio.” Since 2000, the Federal Ministry of Health and WHO have established an active and sensitive Acute Flaccid Paralysis surveillance system in Sudan.
Regular polio immunization campaigns have taken place throughout Sudan, even in conflict-affected Darfur where UNICEF, WHO and other agencies have managed to advocate for safe access for vaccinators. However with increased population displacement, porous borders with neighbouring countries, and continued insecurity being a threat to vaccination efforts, next week’s campaign will remain a major logistical challenge. In addition, recent heavy rains and flooding in many parts of the north of Sudan may lead to gaps in the upcoming campaign, resulting in some children being missed in affected areas – plans are being developed to reach such children using all available means at the first opportunity that allows access to missed areas.
The immunization drive will cover all 15 states in the north of Sudan, with planners hoping to reach at least 82 per cent of children under the age of five during the initial three day effort, with further children reached in currently inaccessible areas in the near future. Tens of thousands of vaccinators will travel house to house, administering the oral polio vaccine.
The last three-day vaccination campaign took place at the end of April 2007 when more than 6 million children were reached. Annually, Sudan stages regular campaigns during the year, with funding and vaccine provided by UNICEF and training for volunteer vaccinators and half of the campaign’s operational costs being supported by WHO. Vaccinators themselves are sourced through local State Ministries of Health, NGOs and from amongst local communities.
The polio eradication effort in Sudan is supported by a number of donors, including CDC, Rotary International, USAID, DFID, the Government of Japan, the World Bank, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.