UN supports polio vaccination campaigns in conflicttorn Sudan and Iraq

In Sudan, over 50,000 health care workers, volunteers and community health workers have been mobilized for the campaign launched by the Federal and southern Sudan regional health ministries together with the UN World Health Organization (WHO), the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and other partner organizations to reach some 8.1 million children under five.The four-day campaign beginning today, part of the global initiative to eradicate polio, particularly targets those living in the poorest communities or those intermittently cut off by conflict. These children are the key to stopping the spread of the disease and access to them is vital to build population immunity.During the first round of the 2006 campaign, some 8 million children were immunized but over 120,000 children in Darfur, the western region that is torn by fighting between the Government, pro-government militias and rebels, were not reached due to the insecurity.In Iraq, 4.8 million children under the age of five will have been vaccinated by 23 April, reinforcing the country’s polio free status. The last reported case was in January, 2000. The current countrywide programme was launched last week during the first of the annual National Immunization Days (NIDs) by the Government with UNICEF and WHO support. NIDs are held as often as six times a year. Thousands of vaccinators are deployed to deliver the Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV) to children sometimes living in dangerous and remote locations.“There is no cure for polio and it can only be prevented through immunization – therefore all children everywhere in Iraq need to be immunized,” UNICEF Special Representative for Iraq Roger Wright said, noting for every 200 children who become infected, one is disabled for life.“Through NIDs, our goal is to assist the Government of Iraq in its efforts to immunize every child against polio, so that the country can continue to be polio-free,” WHO country representative Naeema Al Gasser added.