A United Nations-backed polio immunization campaign is under way in Southern Sudan, targeting children under the age of five in a region that experienced an outbreak of the sometimes deadly disease in 2008 after being free for the previous three years.
More than 60 infections were confirmed among children at that time, leaving them very vulnerable to the disease since few had previously received routine immunization.
“There is a need for serious awareness among the local populations at the grassroots level to fully understand the importance of meeting the full dosage of the vaccine,” UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Southern Sudan Area Programme Director Yasmin Haque said of the three-day campaign that began yesterday in Juba, the capital. It is the second polio immunization drive to be launched in Southern Sudan since the beginning of the year.
Despite challenges, over 3,000 children had been immunized with the oral vaccine in the last three years, she added.
The campaign has been organized by the Government of Southern Sudan in collaboration with UNICEF, the UN World Health Organization (WHO) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
Southern Sudan voted in January to secede from Sudan and is scheduled to become an independent nation on 9 July.