Sudan polio vaccination campaign has failed, U.N. admits

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The Sudanese government and a key rebel group refused to allow U.N. aid workers to vaccinate some 160,000 children against polio in conflict-hit states, the United Nations said Monday.

John Ging, director of U.N. humanitarian operations, urged the U.N. Security Council for pressure to end what he called a “filibuster” by the Sudan government and opposition Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) on humanitarian access.

The U.N. mission was denied access to these areas despite an agreement between the government forces and rebels on a U.N. brokered ceasefire from Nov. 5-12, Ging told reporters, as quoted by Agence France-Presse.

Polio has reappeared in East Africa, and the United Nations is worried that the conflict in Sudan's South Kordofan and Blue Nile states could help it spread again.

The separatist rebels have been battling government forces in the two states since mid-2011.

Ging said the two sides had agreed on how the vaccination would be carried out, but the SPLM-N asked for a “final meeting” and the government refused the talks.

As a result, the U.N. mission was not given access, Ging said, adding that U.N. workers could be ready to enter the rebel-controlled conflict zones in one day and the vaccinations could be finished in four days.

The 15-member Security Council passed a resolution in April last year demanding more access to the two states, and Ging said the body must now use its “significant authority” to put pressure on the two sides.

He said: “unfortunately we have been filibustered with process and discussions and disputes which have amounted to no access.”

(With AFP)

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