UN-backed polio campaign in Sudan called 'exceptionally successful'

Polio immunization in Sudan

17 January 2005 – The three-day polio vaccination campaign launched throughout Sudan on 10 January has been "exceptionally successful," reaching more 5 million children under five, with the various warring factions in Africa's largest country allowing it to proceed unhindered, according to preliminary United Nations figures.

"I am pleased that all Sudanese parties, including in Darfur, have responded favourably to the appeal I made to observe days of tranquillity during the campaign," said Secretary-General Kofi Annan's Special Representative, Jan Pronk, referring to the region in western Sudan that the UN has called the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

"I am satisfied that they all kept their promises. I would like to thank them for their cooperation and call on them to respect fully the ceasefire agreements in order to allow for the completion of the campaign."

The fact that all parties, including the rebel groups in Darfur, lived up to their commitments was a sign that the momentum for peace generated by the signing of the a comprehensive agreement signed earlier this month ending Africa's longest civil war in the south of the country can be expanded to the whole of Sudan, he added.

The UN World Health Organization (WHO) and the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) organized the campaign with partners from the national and international non-governmental community as well as with the support of countries who contributed generously in an effort to reach all vulnerable children in Sudan, currently ranking third in the list of nations with the world's highest rates of cases of the crippling disease.

The initial target is to cover 5.9 million children under five. The campaign in southern Sudan is scheduled to be conducted this week in areas controlled by separatist rebels, who signed the peace agreement earlier this month, after being delayed for logistical reasons given the difficulty of road access to targeted population.

Further rounds of vaccination will be conducted on 27 February and 11 April.

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