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Press Release

Bellamy visits DR Congo for polio campaign

Tuesday 8 August 2000: Hoping to boost the global effort to wipe out polio, especially in countries affected by conflict, UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy begins a three-day visit to the Democratic Republic of Congo this week to take part in a major immunization campaign that is crucial to eradicating the disease. She will also briefly visit neighbouring Congo.

The DR Congo is one of 20 priority countries where wild poliovirus is expected to still be circulating by the end of the year 2000. For that reason, the national immunization days that Ms. Bellamy will be observing are crucial to protecting children and conquering the disease. The campaign which aims to reach some 11 million children takes place from Thursday 10 August through Sunday 13 August.

Ms. Bellamy's trip will encompass stops and activities in:

  • Kinshasa, Thursday 10 August:
    * Meet with the Foreign Minister and Health Minister and UNICEF staff
  • Mbuji Mayi and Kananga, Friday 11 August:
    * In Mbuji Mayi, launch and take part in 2nd day of immunization campaign
    * In Kananga, participate in door-to-door immunization outreach efforts
  • Congo-Brazzaville, Saturday 12 August:
    * Meet Prime Minister, Health Minister, Education Minister & Foreign Minister
    * Visit health centre and children recently affected by polio
  • Kisangani, Sunday 13 August:
    * Take part in door-to-door outreach operations in this troubled region

"Nothing is more difficult than fighting a disease in an environment where conflict and insecurity dominate," Ms. Bellamy said prior to her departure. "That makes this polio eradication effort especially important and especially heroic. I applaud the people of the DRC for embracing National Immunization Days as a gift to their children and a sign of hope for the future."

This is the second round of polio immunizations to take place in the DRC in 2000. The first round took place in early July, when the door-to-door outreach system was employed for the first time, with encouraging results. Door-to-door outreach is crucial to the eradication effort because 10 to 20 per cent of children are not reached during National Immunization Days, which rely on people coming to central immunization locations. Through the door-to-door campaign in July, roughly 1 million children between 0 and 59 months were immunized in the DRC for the first time. Every child must be immunized at least three times to be fully protected from polio. A third round is scheduled for September 2000.

National polio immunizations will take place in Congo-Brazzaville later in August.

This will be Ms. Bellamy's 21st official visit to Africa during her five years as chief of UNICEF. In that time she has visited 25 different African nations.

Also see:
A world without polio

Please email media@unicef.org with comments or requests for more information, quoting CF/DOC/PR/2000/60