Polio Vaccination Campaign In Darfur Shows Immunizations Possible In 'Emergency And Conflict Settings'
In an Inter Press Service opinion piece, Siddharth Chatterjee, chief diplomat and head of strategic partnerships at the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, and Sam Agbo, an independent public health adviser in the U.K., write about the unstable situation in Darfur, Sudan, in 2004, and how “UNICEF and WHO in Sudan along with important NGO partners started planning with local authorities on how best to immunize all children in Darfur” against polio. They outline the major challenges, including staff safety, and discuss how multi-agency teams were able to vaccinate 10,000 children in two immunization rounds. Chatterjee and Agbo add, “The polio immunization campaign was the driver for a wider process of improving and ramping up assistance to communities and this made the campaign attractive to mothers to bring their children to the immunization hubs that were established.”
“The Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) had served as a bridge, an entry point and a disease control strategy for reaching the unreached and most vulnerable,” they write, adding, “The lesson learned is that it is possible to immunize children even in complex emergencies and conflict settings.” Chatterjee and Agbo conclude, “With resolve, leadership at global and country level, partnerships, commitment and alacrity, it is possible to eradicate polio forever everywhere, and soon. And health services may well serve as a bridge for peace in conflicts” (10/6).