Statement from UNICEF's Executive Director Carol Bellamy
NEW YORK/GENEVA - 25 February 2004 - Côte d'Ivoire, polio-free for the last four years, has reported a polio case - and investigations are ongoing to confirm that the virus was imported from Nigeria. If confirmed, Côte d'Ivoire will be the eighth African country to report a child infected by Nigerian polio. This is further proof of the unnecessary suffering caused by the ongoing suspension of polio immunization activities in the Nigerian state of Kano. Children living in Kano State have been denied the polio vaccine since August 2003, creating an open channel for polio to spread back into the rest of Nigeria and across west and central Africa.
Children in Kano and other northern states of Nigeria have been waiting over six months for their state authorities to conclude several tests of the polio vaccine and restart polio immunization activities. It is unforgivable to allow still more children to be paralysed because of further delay and baseless rumours. We call on these authorities to immediately re-join the polio eradication effort, which promises to be one of Africa's greatest success stories in public health. Nigerian leaders must take this opportunity now, or answer to their children.
UNICEF has been a partner with the Nigerian people in assuring the health and wellbeing of their children for over four decades, providing millions of vaccines to Nigerian children against diseases such as measles, polio and maternal & neonatal tetanus. UNICEF supplies all the vaccine used for the polio eradication effort in Africa.
UNICEF is a spearheading partner in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, along with the World Health Organisation, Rotary International and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
For further information, please contact:
Claire Hajaj, UNICEF/New York, +1 212 326-7566