NEW YORK/GENEVA/N’DJAMENA, CHAD, 26 February 2010 – Internationally acclaimed actress, humanitarian and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Mia Farrow is travelling to Chad this weekend to raise awareness of the importance of vaccinating children against polio. The visit is timed to coincide with the country’s upcoming national polio immunization campaign.
During her week-long visit, Ms. Farrow will meet with local officials and travel with polio teams to witness vaccination campaigns first-hand.
Chad’s national campaign is part of a synchronized polio immunization campaign to be conducted across west and central Africa on 6 March. The synchronized campaign, which is being organized with the support of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), involves a total of 19 countries and is aimed at stopping the spread of polio outbreaks across west and central Africa.
The international community has expressed serious concern over the expanding polio outbreak in Chad, particularly given the threat it poses of re-infecting areas of northern Nigeria and Sudan. Strong engagement by the Head of State and provincial governors will be critical for Chad to once again stop polio.
Chad is of particular concern because of an outbreak between 2004 and 2006 that originated in northern Nigeria and spread through Chad to re-infect multiple countries, including Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia, Eritrea, Kenya, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Indonesia.
In addition, confirmation of a type 3 case in northern Cameroon that is genetically linked to the current Chad outbreak further underlines the ongoing risk of international spread.
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About the Global Polio Eradication Initiative
The GPEI is spearheaded by WHO, Rotary International, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and UNICEF. The polio eradication coalition includes governments of countries affected by polio; private sector foundations (United Nations Foundation, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation); development banks (World Bank); bilateral donor governments; the European Commission; the International Red Cross and Red Crescent societies and nongovernmental organizations as well as corporate partners. For more information, please visit: www.polioeradication.org.
Poliomyelitis (polio) is a highly infectious viral disease, which mainly affects children under five. The virus attacks the nervous system and is transmitted through contaminated food, water and feces. One in two hundred infections leads to irreversible paralysis, usually in the legs. Among those paralyzed, 5 per cent to 10 per cent die when their breathing muscles become immobilized. Polio cannot be cured and can only be prevented by immunization. WHO recommends that infants receive three doses of oral poliovirus vaccine (OPV) in the first year of life.
Today, only four countries in the world-- Afghanistan, India, Nigeria and Pakistan--remain polio-endemic, down from more than 125 in 1988.
For more information, please contact:
Christian Moen, UNICEF New York,
Tel +1 212 326 7516,
Salma Zulfiqar, UNICEF Chad,
Tel +235 51 89 89, / Mobile + 235 620 29 57,