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Over 500,000 children in Two Areas unreachable for measles vaccination: UNICEF

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November 24, 2013 (KHARTOUM) - The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said on Sunday that more than half a million children remain unreachable in South Kordofan and Blue Nile, as the country launched a nationwide campaign against measles.

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A poster issued by the Sudanese ministry of health and UNICEF promoting the anti-measles vaccination campaign for 2013 (Photo courtesy of UNICEF)

Sudan’s federal ministry of health has officially launched on Sunday a nationwide measles catch-up campaign targeting about 15 million children from the ages of nine months to 15 years.

The launch took place two weeks after the end of another campaign to immunise children under five years in the whole country except the Blue Nile and South Kordofan where the government and the SPLM-N failed to reach a cessation of hostilities to ensure the implementation of the campaign.

"Unfortunately, more than half a million children will not be reached due to the on-going conflict in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states, leaving a huge number of susceptible cases and increasing the risk of measles outbreaks in these areas", said Dorothy Ochola-Odongo, chief of health, UNICEF Sudan.

Ochola-Odongo pointed that UNICEF paid $10.6 million which represent %80 of the total cost of the vaccination campaign.

John Ging, Director of Operations, UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), last week slammed the Sudanese government and the (SPLM-N) for their failure to meet over a polio vaccination campaign in the rebel controlled areas in the two states.

He urged the Security Council to do something effective and different from a press statement it had issued last October calling to the parties to agree on the technical plans for this vaccination operation.

Sudan’s minister of health, Bahar Idris Abu Garada, who addressed the launch of the campaign in Sudan’s eastern state of Kassala , said that the campaign targets more than 15 million children between ages of 9 months and 15 years all over the country, stressing importance of vaccinating children in order to increase their immunity against the disease.

The deputy governor of Kassala state, Majzoub Abu Musa, for his part, demanded the rebel groups to lay down arms and allow the enforcement of the campaign.

The director of health care, Talal Al-Fadil, asserted the importance of putting measles as a top priority for the vaccination department and pointed that measles vaccination coverage reached %85 of its target goal.

The technical officer for expanded programme on immunization (EPI), WHO Sudan., Ahmed Hardan, said that measles causes %50 of the death cases among diseases targeted by vaccination, pointing that it is a dangerous disease which leads to loss of hearing and sight and results in permanent disabilities.

A report issued by Sudan’s federal ministry of health revealed that 2600 cases of polio have been registered in 2013, 151 of which were in Khartoum state, pointing to the large decrease in the reported cases compared to previous years.

According to the report, the most affected states by the disease are west and east Darfur, north Kordofan, Gedaref, and Kassala.

The minister of health in Khartoum state, Mamoun Humaida, said that Khartoum is among the most affected states by the disease due to domestic migration, pointing that Um Bada and Jebel Awliaa localities register %45 of the cases.

UN agencies hope to eradicate measles in Sudan and the countries of the region by 2015. Sudan is one of the 47 priority countries with a high measles burden.

Measles is one of the five leading causes of death among children under five. It is a highly contagious disease that can cause severe complications, such as pneumonia, diarrhoea and encephalitis, and death. It can easily spread through coughing and sneezing.

(ST)

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