This morning, the first round of a national polio vaccination campaign was launched by the Sudanese Ministry of Health in Khartoum.
There are 46 circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus type 2 (cVDPV2) cases reported in Sudan in 2020 so far. The initial viruses were linked to the ongoing outbreak in Chad, followed by local transmission, according to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI).
Two new cases of polio were reported this week, one each in River Nile state and North Kordofan.
Director of the Health Ministry’s Immunisation Department, Abdallah Hasan, said that the campaign, entitled ‘Towards a Polio-Free Homeland’ targets 8,617,936 children in Sudan at a total cost of $24 million.
He explained that the second round of the vaccination campaign will take place one month after the current one, giving thanks to all partners and stakeholders involved in the organisation process. The campaign aims to completely eradicate the virus in Sudan.
Hasan called on the media to support polio vaccination campaign and to prevent the spread of fake news and rumours about the campaign.
The ministry called on the leaders of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North headed by Abdelaziz El Hilu (SPLM-N EL Hilu) in South Kordofan and Blue Nile “to give green light to the medical teams” to vaccinate children in the areas controlled by the rebel movement, after the governor of South Kordofan, Hamid El Bashir, lauded SPLM-N El Hilu for their efforts in responding to the outbreak of polio on Thursday.
The decades-long campaign to eradicate polio globally was already suffering major setbacks in 2019, before the declaration of Covid-19 as a global pandemic.
In a joint press conference in Khartoum on Thursday, acting Minister of Health Osama Abdelrahim said that the spread of polio this year is partly due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
He also admitted that the delay in launching the campaign was due to the lack of funding to launch the campaign. He said that $15 million is covered by international organisations including the GPEI and the Sudan Humanitarian Fund, and confirmed the commitment of the Government of Sudan to cover the budget deficit of $7 million.
Sudan’s Ministry of Health stressed on August 9, after the first two cases of polio were confirmed, that the current situation requires concerted efforts at all levels to contain the epidemic.
Chad, Ethiopia, South Sudan, and the Central African Republic have reported vaccine-derived poliovirus type 2 (cVDPV2) cases this year. Chad has reported 80 cVDPV2 cases in 2020.
Polio cases are surging in many countries, and models paint a “pretty bleak picture” if campaigns don’t start soon, said Michel Zaffran, Director of the Polio Eradication Programme at the World Health Organization, in July: “For now, countries will only be responding to outbreaks; preventive campaigns remain on hold.”
In “urgent” recommendations in late May, the GPEI said it expected circulation of polioviruses “to increase exponentially during the upcoming high season,” raising the possibility of “uncontrolled multi-country outbreaks.”