Humanitarian Health Action

Urgent funding response needed to stop polio outbreak in Sudan, protect global investment

Special alert

Days ahead of the launch of a massive polio campaign, the World Health Organization (WHO) today drew urgent attention to the need for additional funding to stop an ongoing polio outbreak in Sudan. The organization said US$6.3 million is needed by July, for immunization activities to protect Sudan's 6.2 million children under five from the paralyzing disease.

Epidemic Spread in Africa, 2004-5
Epidemic Spread in Africa, 2004-5: blue = Wild virus type 3; red = Wild virus type 1

Sudan had been polio-free since 2001, before the explosive outbreak that began last May, when a child was paralyzed by the disease in Darfur. The virus had been imported from northern Nigeria, and had entered Sudan via Chad. Since then, the virus has infected 18 of the country's 23 states, leaving 144 children paralyzed. As worryingly, since November, the outbreak has spread beyond Sudan's borders, re-infecting Ethiopia and Saudi Arabia. If the spread of virus is not urgently stopped before the start of the 'high transmission' season beginning in June, the risk of re-infecting further polio-free countries - including the Democratic Republic of the Congo - is magnified.

Since the initial re-infection of Sudan in May 2004, Sudanese authorities in the north and the south, supported by the World Health Organization, Rotary International and UNICEF, have mounted an intensive immunization response. This has succeeded in cornering the virus to the eastern and southern parts of the country, most notably Unity State.

With the quality of polio campaigns continuously improving (independent monitoring suggesting as many as 95% of the target population was reached during the latest activity in February), Sudan will participate in a 23-country, mass polio campaign 11-13 April, to reach more than 100 million children.

Sudan: Planned Costs 2005
(6 National Immunization Days)
US$ millions
Oral polio vaccine 6.31
Campaign operations costs 10.58
Surveillance & laboratory 1.38
Total 18.27
Funding Gap 6.3

In Sudan, two additional nation-wide campaigns, planned for November and December, are currently unfunded. With the goal of global eradication by end-2005, the importance of implementing these intensified campaigns is more critical than ever.

More than the end of a disease is at stake. Polio eradication would validate a US$4 billion, 18-year global investment and demonstrate that the world can work together to reach a shared public health goal.

For more information contact:

Heather Monnet
Telephone: +41 22 791 2355