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Kenya, 31 July 2014: ECHO funds help contain polio outbreak in Horn of Africa

NAIROBI, Kenya, 31 July 2014 - It has been more than a year since a polio outbreak hit the Horn of Africa, affecting some 200 children and adults. Today, the progression of the outbreak has significantly eased off, thanks to the rapid response by the region’s governments and their partners such as the European Commission's Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO).

Funds provided by ECHO, worth of 2.3 million Euros were given to the countries most affected by the polio outbreak - Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia. Rounds of immunization campaigns has resulted in a significant decline in the number of polio cases in all three countries. Since the beginning of this year, only four cases from Somalia and one from Ethiopia have been reported. And Kenya has had no cases since July last year. The Banadir region of Somalia, which was the epicenter of the outbreak, has not reported any case since the last one in July 2013.  

“Funding from our partners such as ECHO has made a huge difference in our response to the polio outbreak” said Susannah Price, Chief of Communication in UNICEF Somalia. “UNICEF was able to procure much needed vaccines with the ECHO funds, and as a result children were able to receive polio drops in Somalia, a country that has high number of unimmunized children and also one of the lowest immunization coverage in the world.”

Across the Horn of Africa, close to one million children, most of them in Somalia, have never been immunized or have not received the required number of doses. Low routine immunization coverage was a key factor behind the outbreak, fuelled by frequent population movement and insecurity. 

ECHO is committed to working closely with UNICEF and all its partners on the ground to fight the polio outbreak in the Horn of Africa through the provision of vaccines to children. "ECHO has been eager to release funding rapidly to address the major outcome of the polio outbreak. UNICEF is the natural partner for ECHO to work with," said Cees Wittebrood, Head of Unit responsible for East, West and Southern Africa, Indian Ocean at ECHO.

With the outbreak slowing down, the affected countries are now moving into a new phase of polio outbreak response. The priorities include continued immunization to stop the residual transmission in South Central Somalia and in the Somali region of Ethiopia; and reducing vulnerability by boosting immunity of populations and increasing routine immunization coverage, especially in hard-to-reach and inaccessible parts of the region.

About UNICEF

UNICEF works in 190 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.

For more information about UNICEF and its work visit: www.unicef.org.

About the European Commission's Humanitarian Aid and Civil department (ECHO)

ECHO funds relief operations for victims of natural disasters and conflicts outside the European Union. Aid is channeled impartially, straight to victims, regardless of their race, ethnic group, religion, gender, age, nationality or political affiliation. ECHO is among UNICEF’s largest humanitarian donors.

For more information on ECHO: http://ec.europa.eu/echo/  

For further information, please visit UNICEF-EU web portal: http://www.unicef.org/eu/     

For more information, please contact:

Kun Li, Communication Specialist, UNICEF Regional Office East and Southern Africa, kli@unicef.org

Rebekka Opfermann, Communication Assistant, UNICEF Brussels EU Office, Tel. : +32 2 505 01 06 ropfermann@unicef.org 

 

 
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