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UN to immunize millions of Sudanese children against polio

7/7/2005 1:46am

NAIROBI, July 6, 2005 (Xinhua) -- The United Nations agencies announced Wednesday they intend to immunize five million Sudanese children less than five years of age from Friday this week.
In a joint statement, the World Health Organization (WHO), the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) as well as national and international NGOs, said they were joining efforts with the Sudanese health authorities in order to conduct an additional immunization campaign between 8 and 18 this month.

"The campaign will be organized between July 8 and 18 of 2005 and will cover at least 5 million children less than 5 years of age. Approximately 40,000 volunteers will take part in the campaign," the UN agencies said.

The UN agencies have appealed to Khartoum government, southern rebels and all armed groups in the Africa's largest country to secure the safety of the vaccination teams during the period.

"It is crucial that all troops and armed forces refrain from any activity that would hamper the smooth conduct of the vaccination campaign," Humanitarian Coordinator and Deputy of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the Sudan, Manuel da Silva said.

"It is in everybody's interest that this epidemic is contained as soon as possible. Otherwise, the consequences for the Sudanese people and neighboring countries may be disastrous. All Sudanese parties must rise to the occasion and shoulder their responsibility towards their own people," he added.

Sudan had been free of polio for three years before the current outbreak began there in May last year.

Since then, the crippling disease that mainly affects young children has spread rapidly across the country, infecting at least 152 people in 18 states.

A series of campaigns has been carried out since October 2004 in order to stop the poliovirus circulation.

The first polio virus detected in Sudan originated in Nigeria, which now accounts for 60-percent of the world's polio cases.

The polio virus usually attacks the nervous system of children, causing paralysis and sometimes death from respiratory problems.

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