Home | News    Saturday 27 July 2013

Vaccination campaign in SPLM-N held areas could go ahead in October: UN

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July 26, 2013 (KHARTOUM) - The UN says it is ready to carry out a polio vaccination campaign in rebel-controlled areas in Sudan’s South Kordofan and Blue Nile states during a two-week period in late October or early November provided a moratorium on fighting is agreed between Sudanese government forces and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N).

The United Nations and its agencies, as well as UNICEF and the World Health Organisation (WHO) have been negotiating with the warring parties since last April to allow the vaccination campaign to go ahead.

As well as carrying our polio vaccines, the UN and its partners plan a vitamin A distribution campaign for around 165,000 children under the age of five in conflict-affected areas where immunisation coverage has dropped significantly since 2011.

The campaign will target children and newborn babies who have not yet been vaccinated due to ongoing conflict in the region.

According to the July bulletin of the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the parties involved agreed to a detailed action plan in June, following a round of bilateral meetings led by WHO and UNICEF with the Sudanese government and representatives of the humanitarian arm of the SPLM-N in Addis Ababa.

NO AGREEMENT

However, the parties have yet to reach an agreement on the exact dates of the campaign, a two-week moratorium on fighting, as well as the source and route of the vaccines.

The Sudanese government has said it wants the vaccines sourced from the central medical stores in Khartoum which receives all vaccines imported into Sudan, but the SPLM-N says it will block any vaccines coming in from Sudan, insisting instead that they must be flown in directly from Ethiopia, Kenya or some other external location.

Although, the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator proposed verification by UNICEF, WHO and a third neutral party that the vaccines are fit to use, the SPLM-N has maintained its stance that shipments of vaccines from Sudan would not be acceptable.

The June negotiations in Ethiopia were the third such attempt by the UN and partners since 2011 to get the parties to agree.

PROPOSAL STALLS

The proposed vaccination campaign has previously stalled on a number of occasions, amid disagreements over who should oversee the operation.

The Sudanese government said it wants its humanitarian agency to supervise the campaign, but rebels have rejected its involvement, saying the operation should be organised from Ethiopia and Kenya with the participation of their humanitarian personnel.

Earlier this month, the SPLM-N proposed involving the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) as part of the vaccination campaign.

In an emailed statement to Sudan Tribune on 13 July, SPLM-N secretary-general Yasir Arman said UNISFA could help facilitate the vaccination campaign by providing security and logistical support to aid personnel.

The proposal was discussed at a nine-day meeting held by the SPLM-N held from 27 June to 5 July in rebel-controlled areas in South Kordofan.

During the meeting, the rebel group reiterated its commitment to a humanitarian cessation of hostilities and to engage political talks “resolving the political crisis in Sudan”.

The Sudanese government and the SPLM-N earlier signed an agreement with UN agencies, the African Union and the Arab League aiming to provide civilians in rebel-held areas with humanitarian assistance, but have so far disagreed on how it should be implemented.

Both UNICEF and WHO said they had completed preparations for the vaccination campaign and are ready to begin as soon as an agreement is reached on outstanding issues.

According to OCHA, the vaccination campaign will ensure that Sudan remains free of the poliovirus, adding that in areas where previous national immunisation efforts have not been carried out, the resurgence of the virus remains real.

(ST)

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