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Nov 11, 2013 6:48 PM by Joe Bevans

Polio making a stand in Africa

UNITED NATIONS (AP) - The director of U.N. humanitarian operations told the U.N. Security Council on Monday that efforts to vaccinate 165,000 children against polio in Sudan's violence-wracked South Kordofan and Blue Nile states have failed. John Ging said he urged the U.N.'s most powerful body to use its clout to get the youngsters vaccinated. Last month, the Security Council expressed alarm at the imminent threat of the spread of polio through the two states and the continuing outbreak of polio in the Horn of Africa. The council urged the government and the SPLM-North rebel group, which is backed by South Sudan and has been fighting government forces in the two states, "to urgently overcome differences" over technical plans so that a vaccination campaign could begin on schedule on Nov. 5. Ging told a news conference after briefing the Security Council that the Sudanese government and the SPLM-North had agreed on all technical arrangements for the vaccination campaign during a Nov. 5-12 window announced by the Sudanese government. But he said the SPLM-North insisted on a final meeting and the government said "no" - and the U.N. agreed there was no need for further meetings. So the days have ticked away and the opportunity to vaccinate the children has "unfortunately failed," he said. Ging said he urged council members to find a way to get aid workers into the two states. "They have the capacity to act and to make a difference on the ground," he said. "We are ready," Ging said. "If there's a green light, we can be there in a day." He said he was "heartened" that council members understood the "gravity and urgency" of the situation. China's U.N. Ambassador Liu Jieyi, the current Security Council president, called the lack of access for the polio vaccination campaign "disturbing." He said the council hopes conditions will change so the campaign can go ahead immediately, but he did not mention any action to spur a change. Ging expressed great frustration at the "filibustering" and finger-pointing by both sides that are having a serious impact on efforts to eradicate polio. For the last 18 months, the U.N. has also been unable to get humanitarian aid to 800,000 people in Blue Nile and South Kordofan because of similar issues, he said. "We the international community have failed the people of South Kordofan and Blue Nile," Ging said.

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