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South Sudan and Sudan conduct polio vaccination campaigns

Rahma Sid Ahmed (centre) and her team of vaccinators go door-to-door to help eradicate polio, in Khartoum, Sudan. – Ingram / UNICEF

KHARTOUM, Sudan, 6 December 2011 – Rahma Sid Ahmed pores over a roughly drawn pencil map that will help her locate children under age five. She is part of a team of vaccinators who have come to the Al Shagara neighbourhood, in southern Khartoum, to immunize all children under five against the crippling polio virus.

Wearing sunshine yellow aprons, she and her partners meander down dusty paths, knocking on each door they pass. A colleague carries a cold box of polio vaccines, ready to inoculate any child under the age of five they encounter. They take no chances, checking every house for newborns, visitors or people who have arrived from conflict zones around the country.

Soon they come across Shama Adel and her 7-month-old son Mohamed, both new to the neighbourhood. Their family fled conflict in South Kordofan, a state in south-western Sudan, only a few months ago. Ms. Ahmed’s team quickly begins administering the oral polio vaccine (OPV) to Mohamed.

Mohamed was one of more than 6 million children in 12 of Sudan’s 15 states targeted by the immunization campaign – the fourth such campaign conducted this year. The drive also administers vitamin A supplements to children, helping prevent night blindness and improving their immunity to diseases.

A few days later on 15 December, south of the border in the capital of South Sudan, Deputy Minister of Health Dr. Yata Luori Logori launched a round of the “Kick Polio out of South

Sudan” campaign. Just as in its neighbour to the north, South Sudan will send out vaccinators house-to-house in all of its ten states to vaccinate 3.2 million children under the age of five to protect them from polio.

Children have not been paralyzed by polio in Sudan or South Sudan since 2009; the poliovirus appears to have retreated before an onslaught of intense vaccination campaigns.

In South Sudan, as the campaigns started, the Deputy Minister thanked the World Health Organization, UNICEF, USAID, Rotary International, CDC and other partners for their support.

Dr. Abdi Aden Mohamed, Head of the World Health Organization in South Sudan said, “WHO recognizes that in order to maintain this remarkable achievement, it is crucial that all efforts are put together to ensure that no polio virus is allowed into the country. This can be achieved by maintaining a high immunity profile among all children less than five years of age in South Sudan.”

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