SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 25, 2016

Sudan makes major immunization strides

More than 90 percent of Sudan's children are vaccinated against deadly childhood diseases like tuberculosis because of a committed plan by the Ministry of Health Sudan with help from multiple international partners.

According to a recent report by the World Health Organization, approximately one third of Sudan's children missed out on vaccinations against diseases like tetanus, measles and polio just a decade ago. In the state of South Kordofan, more than half of all children did not receive important vaccinations.

The committed plan, which was supported by GAVI, UNICEF, WHO and other partners, ensures that more than 90 percent of children in Sudan are vaccinated against TB, pertussis, tetanus, diphtheria and polio.

"The biggest challenge we face is insecurity in the Darfur region but we are keen to ensure vaccination for all so we work hard to reach every child in Sudan," Khadija, a polio vaccination volunteer, said.

Continued cooperation between the government, armed groups, nongovernmental organizations, local communities, United Nations agencies and the African Union/U.N. Hybrid operation in Darfur allows exceptions to the rules of war to let children receive vaccinations.

To reach the 10 percent of Sudan's tribe belonging to nomadic pastoralist tribes, Sudan's Expanded Program on Immunization trains volunteer vaccinators from the tribes.

"We have designated a focal person in each tribe and developed maps to show their locations and movement paths as they follow the rainfall patterns to feed their grazing animals during the dry and rainy seasons," Eltayeb Elfakki, the former EPI manager at the Ministry of Health Sudan, said.

The EPI has reached approximately 80 percent of tribal children in Sudan.

The WHO, GAVI Alliance and UNICEF have given Sudan financial and technical support to improve its immunization success.

"From the beginning, WHO, UNICEF and the Ministry of Health worked together as a team," Elfakki said. "Sudan could not have done this alone".