BENZAMBE, CAR, 24 February 2012 – A national immunization campaign to eradicate polio was launched today in the Central African Republic (CAR), aimed at reaching all children in the country, including hard-to-reach populations living in conflict and post-conflict zones with limited access to health services.
The campaign is in urgent response to four imported cases of polio discovered in CAR in 2011, the first in two years.
“Routine data shows that only 68 per cent of children in CAR under five years of age are completely vaccinated against polio, which means that 260,000 children under five are at risk of contracting the virus”, said Mary Louise Eagleton Meaney, Deputy Representative for UNICEF, CAR at the launch ceremony.
“In order to ensure all preventive measures are taken, the government is making efforts to facilitate access to all localities in the country, including reaching children in post-conflict areas,” said Faustin Archange Touadera, Prime Minister of the Central African Republic.
Health workers will be going door to door to deliver polio vaccines starting February 24th to 806,825 children between the ages of 0-59 months; to administer vitamin A supplements to 725,102 children between 6-59 months; and to provide deworming for 643,595 children between 12-59 months of age.
CAR had not registered any cases of polio since 2009. However, in 2011 four imported cases were discovered despite the occurrence of more than 15 national campaigns over the past five years. CAR is particularly vulnerable to the spread of disease across its numerous borders with neighbouring countries where the wild polio virus is still circulating. On-going violence and insecurity has led to an estimated 171,751 internally displaced people and returning refugees who lack access to basic medical care.
Furthermore, CAR has an under-5 mortality rate of 179 per 1,000, as compared to an average of 127 in the rest of the region. The integrated immunization campaign is part of the United Nations Children’s Fund’s child survival and development programme that aims to use existing low cost and high impact interventions to prevent unnecessary child deaths.
Following the launch, the immediate priorities are to ensure sustained national immunization campaigns and to strengthen routine immunization to protect against the risk of a polio outbreak. In response, the World Health Organisation (WHO) together with UNICEF is working to reinforce government efforts towards immunization activities at this crucial time.
WHO is involved in the training and coordination of the vaccination teams as well as covering operational costs, while UNICEF is contributing vitamin A supplements and deworming tablets, as well as assisting with the procurement of polio vaccines. UNICEF is also providing technical assistance in vaccine distribution and engaging with young people, women, media, and community, religious and political leaders to increase awareness on the campaign and ensure that parents and caregivers understand the benefits of immunization.
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
For more information, please contact:
Linda Tom, UNICEF Central African Republic,
Mobile + 236 7055 0210,