11 November 2013 The United Nations Security Council is working right now to consider a way to enable a delayed polio campaign in the Sudan to go ahead, the body’s president told journalists.
Speaking after closed-door consultations on Sudan and South Sudan, Liu Jieyi of China, which this month holds the Council presidency, said that the vaccination campaign which “cannot be carried out at this point” is a concern for the UN body.
“It is an issue that bears on the well-being of children. Children are the future. So we do hope that the conditions will be there so that this polio vaccination campaign can go ahead immediately covering those children that need such a vaccination,” Mr. Liu said.
A two-week vaccination campaign, proposed by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and the World Health Organization (WHO), was scheduled to start in South Kordofan and Blue Nile on 5 November.
The areas are under the control of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N), with which the Government of Sudan has been unable to resolve differences over the technical plans for the campaign.
“We are, on the UN side ready, if we get the green light,” said OCHA’s Director of the Operation Division, John Ging, speaking during a press conference in New York earlier today.
“Sadly, and typically, since the Council passed its resolution calling for unfettered humanitarian access, once again we don’t have any access at all,” Mr. Ging said.
“We found 18 months ago when they passed the resolution that it did create momentum, but unfortunately we have been filibustered with process, discussions and disputes which have amounted to no access to humanitarian agencies.”
OCHA aimed to vaccinate 165,000 children against polio, a highly infectious disease caused by a virus that invades the nervous system and can cause total paralysis in a matter of hours. The virus enters the body through the mouth and multiplies in the intestine.
Initial symptoms are fever, fatigue, headache, vomiting, and stiffness in the neck and pain in the limbs. One in 200 infections leads to irreversible paralysis and among those paralyzed, five to 10 per cent die when their breathing muscles become immobilized.
Turning to other matters in the region, Mr. Liu said that the 15-member Council continues to follow closely developments between Sudan and South Sudan which recently have had “encouraging developments” given the visits between Presidents Omar Al-Bashir and Salva Kiir, respectively.
Speaking on behalf of the Council, Mr. Liu urged both sides to implement the arrangements they have agreed upon, particularly on the issue of the contested area of Abyei.
“Any unilateral action will not help matters on the ground,” the Ambassador stressed.