Third polio campaign kicks off across South Sudan

9 Nov 2011

Third polio campaign kicks off across South Sudan

8 November - South Sudan had made good progress in eradicating polio over the past 27 months, national Minister of Health Dr. Michael Milly Hissen said today in Juba.

Speaking as the country's third polio vaccination campaign was launched, Dr. Hissen said no new cases had been reported since June 2009. "Of course that doesn't mean that we should stop vaccinating our children. We are continuing, because we want to ensure that South Sudan is polio free."

The country had experienced a reemergence of polio cases in 2008 with about 28 cases reported, which had sharply increased to 40 cases in 2009, the minister said.

Ministry of Health Director General Dr. Lul Riek said the government had continued to carry out vaccination campaigns in various health centers as well as house-to-house to avoid a comeback.

The ministry is supported in the campaigns by the World Health Organization, which assists with surveillance and monitoring, and UNICEF, which buys the vaccines.

"In an effort to increase accessibility in the remotest areas of South Sudan, we have dispatched 20,000 health workers to various places, including cattle camps, to carry out the immunization campaign for children below five years of age in this third ... campaign," said Dr. Hissen.

He said the ministry was targeting about 3.7 million children across South Sudan, but due to logistical challenges (like poor roads) about 3.2 million children would be immunized, as occurred in last two campaigns.

Dr. Riek said the house-to-house campaign would cover every child below five years of age in many villages across South Sudan.

The minister of health urged organized forces to provide effective security for health workers carrying out the exercise and urged parents to ensure their children were vaccinated.

The polio campaign will end on 11 November, when about 90 per cent of children below five should be vaccinated across South Sudan.