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UN joins Sudan authorities in mass polio campaign

UN agencies join Sudan authorities in mass campaign against polio

As part of continuing efforts to eradicate polio from Sudan, Government authorities, along with United Nations and other partners, today launched their latest mass campaign aimed at immunizing 8 million children under the age of five against the disease.

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), said this year’s first round of the national polio immunization campaign – to run from today until Wednesday – was particularly aimed at children living in the poorest communities or those intermittently cut-off by conflict.

In their joint release the agencies said that while Sudan had succeeded in interrupting transmission of the wild polio virus, so that no new cases of polio had been reported in the country since June 2005, nevertheless “continued attention and vigilance” was needed.

They also noted that immunizing children in Sudan’s strife-torn region of Darfur was essential to keep the debilitating disease at bay.

“Reaching the children living in areas under conflict in Darfur is crucial to build the population immunity. The cooperation of armed groups is essential to avoid creating an immunization gap threatening the achievements of 2004 and 2005.”

The total number of confirmed polio cases in Sudan in 2004 was 127, while during the first half of last year, only 27 cases were reported.

“The immunization drive is crucial if further cases of infection are to be avoided among children. This year’s campaigns are synchronized to happen simultaneously throughout the country,” the agencies said.

Earlier this month a core group of international partners, including UNICEF and WHO, which is leading the global fight against polio said the number of countries with indigenous polio had dropped to an all-time low of four.

The group said that this was the first time in three years that the number of polio-endemic countries had fallen, leaving Nigeria, India, Pakistan and Afghanistan as the sole remaining countries yet to have stopped indigenous polio transmission.

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