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November 11, 2013

UN Says Polio Vaccination Efforts Fail in Sudan

by VOA News

United Nations officials say their efforts to vaccinate children against polio in Sudan have failed because they could not safely get into the southern part of the country.

An official with the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, John Ging, told reporters at U.N. headquarters in New York Monday that the Sudanese government and southern rebels could not reach an agreement to provide them with safe access.

"Once again, we don't have any access at all, and on this occasion even though the urgency, the gravity of the situation - with the outbreak of polio in the wider region - was not enough to bring the parties to agree to allow us to mobilize the vaccination campaign."

Ging described the lack of access as sad and typical. He said a U.N. team was planning to vaccinate 165,000 children in two states in the south of Sudan which are under the control of the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLA) - North.

Ging said discussions to enter the region began 18 months ago and included talks on providing food aid and helping malnourished children. He said later the talks were reduced to discussions about only vaccinations.

The U.N. official repeatedly expressed frustration, saying that both sides are "masters" at needing another round of discussion.

"So the result today is that it's just not enough. Their engagement so far has not been enough. So we're appealing to them to find a way to engage which will get us across the line.''

The Sudanese government has been battling SPLA-North rebels in the region since mid-2011, around the time South Sudan gained independence. Sudan has accused South Sudan of supporting the rebel group, a charge South Sudan denies.

South Sudan split from Sudan in a referendum that was part of a peace deal with the north following decades of civil war. Tensions remain high between the two countries over several issues, including oil-rich regions along their shared border.