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Thousands of South Sudanese children to benefit from UN polio vaccine scheme

Article / Review by on December 15, 2011 – 8:57 pmNo Comments

Thousands of South Sudanese children to benefit from UN polio vaccine scheme

Oral polio vaccine being administered. Photo: UNICEF/Cornelia Walther

Hundreds of thousands of children are benefiting from a United Nations-backed polio vaccination campaign in a northern state of South Sudan, the world’s newest country.The four-day campaign, which ends tomorrow, is part of a nationwide effort to curb the disease and was launched by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Health Organization (WHO), healthy ministry officials, and other partners.This is the fourth and final campaign this year and it is targeting over 370,000 children below the age of five. The previous three campaigns took place in February, March and November and have reached some 3.2 million children.

For February, we reached 100 per cent; March, 101 per cent; and November, 102 per cent. We also expect this one to exceed the target.

“Our target for the last three exercises this year was to immunize 376,857 children under five years of age,” said Paulo Okech Ajak, manager of WHO’s Expanded Program for Immunization in Upper Nile state. “For February, we reached 100 per cent; March, 101 per cent; and November, 102 per cent. We also expect this one to exceed the target.”

Polio re-emerged in South Sudan in April 2008, but after an intensive vaccination campaign, no new cases have been reported since June 2009. “The polio virus has been kicked out from not only Upper Nile state but South Sudan as a whole,” said WHO Director for South Sudan Fazal Ather.

UNICEF state team leader David Igulu said the agency had been supporting the Ministry of Health with routine and national immunization campaigns against the disease.

“We have supported the Government in the provision of vaccines, solar powered fridges for proper storage and safety of vaccines in remote areas, training of staff and social mobilization – for example, using Radio Miraya [a UN-backed radio station] and other mediums of reaching out to the people to create awareness of the disease,” he said.

A highly infectious disease caused by a virus, polio invades the nervous system and leads to irreversible paralysis in one out of 200 cases. Only four countries – Afghanistan, India, Nigeria and Pakistan – remain polio-endemic today, and the number of cases has declined drastically in the past 25 years

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Polio vaccination campaign launched in Malakal

12 December 2011 – Hundreds of thousands of children in Upper Nile stand to benefit from a four-day polio vaccination campaign launched today by the State Ministry of Health (MoH), UNICEF, World Health Organization (WHO) and other stakeholders.

Part of a nationwide effort to curb the disease, the campaign – the fourth and final this year — will run from 13 to 16 December, targeting over 370,000 children.

The previous three campaigns took place in February, March and November, said Paulo Okech Ajak, manager of WHO’s Expanded Program for Immunization in Upper Nile.

“Our target for the last three exercises this year was to immunize 376,857 children under five years of age,” Mr. Ajak said. “For February we reached 100 per cent, March 101 per cent and November 102 per cent. We also expect this one to exceed the target.”

Addressing the public during the launch, Minister for Health Stephen Lor Nyiak said a dry season campaign would begin in mid-January 2012 in all of the state’s 13 counties. “The aim is to create awareness of the children’s disease and HIV/AIDS. We are determined to eradicate these diseases amongst our communities.”

WHO head in the state Dr. Fazal Ather said no cases of polio had been reported in South Sudan since 2009.

“This means that the polio virus has been kicked out from not only Upper Nile State but South Sudan as a whole,” said Dr. Ather.

UNICEF state team leader David Igulu said they had been supporting the MoH with routine and national immunization campaigns against the disease.

“We have supported the government in the provision of vaccines, solar powered fridges for proper storage and safety of vaccines in remote areas, training of staff and social mobilization — for example, using Radio Miraya and other mediums of reaching out to the people to create awareness of the disease,” said Mr. Igulu.

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About World Health Organization (WHO)

WHO is the directing and coordinating authority for health within the United Nations system. It is responsible for providing leadership on global health matters, shaping the health research agenda, setting norms and standards, articulating evidence-based policy options, providing technical support to countries and monitoring and assessing health trends.

World Health Organization (WHO)

In the 21st century, health is a shared responsibility, involving equitable access to essential care and collective defence against transnational threats.

WHO fulfils its objectives through its core functions:

  • providing leadership on matters critical to health and engaging in partnerships where joint action is needed;
  • shaping the research agenda and stimulating the generation, translation and dissemination of valuable knowledge;
  • setting norms and standards and promoting and monitoring their implementation;
  • articulating ethical and evidence-based policy options;
  • providing technical support, catalysing change, and building sustainable institutional capacity
  • monitoring the health situation and assessing health trends.

The WHO agenda

WHO operates in an increasingly complex and rapidly changing landscape. The boundaries of public health action have become blurred, extending into other sectors that influence health opportunities and outcomes. WHO responds to these challenges using a six-point agenda. The six points address two health objectives, two strategic needs, and two operational approaches. The overall performance of WHO will be measured by the impact of its work on women’s health and health in Africa.

1. Promoting development

During the past decade, health has achieved unprecedented prominence as a key driver of socioeconomic progress, and more resources than ever are being invested in health. Yet poverty continues to contribute to poor health, and poor health anchors large populations in poverty. Health development is directed by the ethical principle of equity: Access to life-saving or health-promoting interventions should not be denied for unfair reasons, including those with economic or social roots. Commitment to this principle ensures that WHO activities aimed at health development give priority to health outcomes in poor, disadvantaged or vulnerable groups. Attainment of the health-related Millennium Development Goals, preventing and treating chronic diseases and addressing the neglected tropical diseases are the cornerstones of the health and development agenda.

2. Fostering health security

Shared vulnerability to health security threats demands collective action. One of the greatest threats to international health security arises from outbreaks of emerging and epidemic-prone diseases. Such outbreaks are occurring in increasing numbers, fuelled by such factors as rapid urbanization, environmental mismanagement, the way food is produced and traded, and the way antibiotics are used and misused. The world’s ability to defend itself collectively against outbreaks has been strengthened since June 2007, when the revised International Health Regulations came into force.

3. Strengthening health systems

For health improvement to operate as a poverty-reduction strategy, health services must reach poor and underserved populations. Health systems in many parts of the world are unable to do so, making the strengthening of health systems a high priority for WHO. Areas being addressed include the provision of adequate numbers of appropriately trained staff, sufficient financing, suitable systems for collecting vital statistics, and access to appropriate technology including essential drugs.

4. Harnessing research, information and evidence

Evidence provides the foundation for setting priorities, defining strategies, and measuring results. WHO generates authoritative health information, in consultation with leading experts, to set norms and standards, articulate evidence-based policy options and monitor the evolving global heath situation.

5. Enhancing partnerships

WHO carries out its work with the support and collaboration of many partners, including UN agencies and other international organizations, donors, civil society and the private sector. WHO uses the strategic power of evidence to encourage partners implementing programmes within countries to align their activities with best technical guidelines and practices, as well as with the priorities established by countries.

6. Improving performance

WHO participates in ongoing reforms aimed at improving its efficiency and effectiveness, both at the international level and within countries. WHO aims to ensure that its strongest asset – its staff – works in an environment that is motivating and rewarding. WHO plans its budget and activities through results-based management, with clear expected results to measure performance at country, regional and international levels.

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About UNICEF
UNICEF works in 190 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments. For more information about UNICEF and its work visit: www.unicef.org

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> United Nations (UN).

The General Assembly in session. Photo credit: UN / Eskinder Debebe The United Nations was established on 24 October 1945 by 51 countries committed to preserving peace through international cooperation and collective security. Today, nearly every nation in the world belongs to the UN: membership totals 192 countries.

When States become Members of the United Nations, they agree to accept the obligations of the UN Charter, an international treaty that sets out basic principles of international relations. According to the Charter, the UN has four purposes:

  • to maintain international peace and security;
  • to develop friendly relations among nations;
  • to cooperate in solving international problems and in promoting respect for human rights;
  • and to be a centre for harmonizing the actions of nations.

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* The above story is adapted from materials provided by United Nations (UN)
** More information at United Nations (UN)

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