For over two years 165,000 children in conflict zones of Blue Nile and South Kordofan in south eastern Sudan have been under fire; with little food and clean water, few schools and some have been forced to dig out small shelters in caves to flee the fighting. Away from cameras, their plight is unseen and underreported.
These children have had almost no healthcare and little or no protection. The conflict is robbing them of their childhood. And now they are in grave danger from a disease that has the power to disable them as much as any weapon: Polio.
As polio spreads across the war zones of Syria and Somalia, and stalks the Horn of Africa, our great opportunity to rid the world of another debilitating disease since small pox is being thwarted.
Last week 7 million children across Sudan were reached as part of a national polio vaccination campaign. However, the 165,000 children living in the conflict zones of South Kordofan and Blue Nile missed out.
We wait for final agreement from the conflicting parties, the Government of Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement North (SPLMN), to allow the safe passage of our staff and vaccines to reach these children. We have heard and seen good intentions, support and commitments over the past few weeks. We welcome every ongoing effort to get the job done.
Vaccinating these children against polio would just be the beginning. Once the door is open for polio vaccines, easy to administer than other vaccines, the aim is to forge a path of peace for much more: clean water, medicines, and the chance to go to school. We can only do this together with both parties to the conflict.
Childhood immunisation is a cornerstone of every child’s survival and health. We have known this for decades now. Child mortality is going down in great measure due to increased investment in immunisation and other primary health care for children. But to be able to imagine a future where no child has to die from a preventable disease means finding a way to reach children everywhere, including the forgotten corners of our world where conflict reigns.
We will not give up hope. We cannot let conflict stop us. We are ready with the vaccines, the equipment, the people and the resolve to reach each one of those children.
We have 165,000 reasons and no excuses.