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Thousands of Sudanese Children Unvaccinated Against Killer Diseases

  • Lisa Schlein

FILE - A Sudanese child is immunized against measles in North Darfur, Sudan.

FILE - A Sudanese child is immunized against measles in North Darfur, Sudan.

The United Nations Children’s Fund is urging Sudan’s warring parties to give the go-ahead for a life-saving measles vaccination campaign. Thousands of children in hard to reach areas currently are at risk for the disease.

UNICEF welcomes a recent cease-fire agreement between Sudan's government and rebels in three parts of the country. The agency says it hopes the cessation of hostilities will finally allow it and other aid organizations access to tens of thousands of children in the Nuba Mountains, parts of the Blue Nile States and Jabel Mara in northern Darfur.

UNICEF spokesman Christof Boulierac said these areas have been off limits for four years. He said his agency is extremely worried about the condition of children there, as a full picture of their humanitarian needs is not known.

“An estimated 165,000 children under the age of 5 have had no access to vaccination in the Nuba Mountains and in some localities in the Blue Nile States alone. Sudan’s children continue to be beleaguered by disease outbreaks, such as measles — as you know measles is killing lots of children when it is not prevented — dengue fever and diarrhea,” said Boulierac.

Sudan was hit with a measles outbreak in January. Since then, there have been outbreaks of this killer disease in all 18 states, with 14 states at epidemic level.

UNICEF reports 3,168 cases were confirmed by August. This is more than four times the normal annual caseload in Sudan.

Boulierac said measles vaccination campaigns have been ongoing for the past few months throughout the country, except for the three inaccessible areas. If the cease-fire agreement holds, he said this would provide an opportunity to rectify this dangerous situation.

He noted that children in Sudan continue to be victims of conflict and chronic underdevelopment. He said some 2 million children under age 5 are acutely malnourished every year.

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