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FACTBOX - International action to eradicate Polio in South Sudan


By Manyang Mayom

Feb 20, 2006 (RUMBEK) —

Polio: What it is?
Polio is a disease that is caused by a virus (called poliovirus) that affects certain nerves and causes fever, illness and sometimes paralysis and death in some of the infected children. Once infected and there is damage to the nerves, the child cannot be cured. However, polio can be prevented through the polio vaccine.

How is it spread?
Even though a number of children do not become paralyzed, they are able to pass the virus to others. This is passed through the oral-fecal route, which simply means that the virus is ingested and passed through the stool of a child and due to poor sanitation the virus is passed onto others.

How do we stop polio forever?
Polio can be stopped if every child is protected through multiple doses of polio vaccine. One dose of this vaccine is given in two drops by mouth. This is given to children under one year of age during the routine immunization visits and to children below 5 years of age during campaigns. A child should receive multiple doses of polio vaccine to be best protected. A child can receive the vaccine as many times as it is offered. There is no harm caused to a child who takes many doses of polio vaccine.
Polio is stopped forever through 4 major strategies:

- 1.) Strong routine or Expanded Programme for Immunization (EPI)
- 2.) National and Sub-National Immunization Days (NIDs/SNIDs)
- 3.) Acute Flaccid Paralysis Surveillance, to look for polio-like disease.
- 4.) Mopping-Up Campaigns (When surveillance finds cases in smaller geographical areas, polio immunizations may be done in smaller parts of a country.)

Both World Health Organization and UNICEF are partners in stopping polio forever in Southern Sudan. This is part of the worldwide effort to stop polio which we refer to as polio eradication

Worldwide, the polio eradication programme has prevented paralysis in over an estimated 5 million children since 1988, when the world health assembly asked the UN to lead this effort to stop polio worldwide. Since that time WHO and UNICEF have worked together with ministries of health, Rotary, the United States Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and other partners across the world to stop polio. In 2005, there were six endemic countries along with a number of countries like Sudan, Ethiopia and Somalia in which imported cases have occurred. The last case of polio in Sudan was reported in June 2005.

NIDs, SNIDs and mopping up campaigns are all supplementary immunization programmes because they improve the protection of children against polio given through the routine vaccination programme. In southern Sudan, we visit all houses, cattle or fishing camps, as well as any areas or facilities we think children can be found during the campaign. If there are groups of people traveling, we try to find ways of vaccinating the children in these groups.

In South Sudan, UNICEF is providing vaccine and oversight for EPI programme. Specifically, for polio eradication, WHO has established sub-regional hubs and contracted with staff to work at county, payam and village levels to both look for acute flaccid paralysis cases and organize immunization campaigns to stop the polio disease. These sub-regional offices are currently located as follows
Bahr El Ghazal - Akon,
Upper Nile and Northern Jonglei - Nyal,
Lakes -Rumbek,
Southern Jonglei - Mabior,
Eastern Equatoria - Arua (temporary),
Western Equatoria - Yambio.

UNICEF is providing direct support at the central and field level to polio eradication through staff support, planning, social mobilization, supplies, logistics and cold chain, transport, implementation and monitoring.
This partnership is critical if we are to succeed at stopping the poliovirus forever.

What can UNICEF field offices and their staff do to help stop polio?

1. Work closely with WHO and other partners in the field to plan the campaign in the areas. Attend planning sessions organized by WHO along with leaders to identify effective plans for reaching all of the children. This includes identifying all settlements and mapping them.

2. Provide transport and needed logistics to the polio teams before, during and after the campaigns.

3. Assure that messages are given to clinics receiving routine vaccines and the mothers they are serving about the upcoming activities and the importance of reporting any suddenly paralyzed child under the age of 15 years.

4. Participate in social mobilization activities and advocacy with community and the leaders prior to and during campaigns. Help think of ways to make the whole community aware of the polio campaign and to get excited about protecting their children.

5. Work closely with WHO and other partners in the field to assure the safe delivery, cold-chain and handling of vaccines.

6. Help supervise the campaign by going out with WHO field staff to deliver vaccine and supervise activities in the community

7. Help monitor the activities during and after the campaign and report timely information back to WHO and the UNICEF offices so that any problems can quickly be managed.


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