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Fight continues against polio outbreak in Indonesia

© UNICEF video
In a Jakarta health station, a child receives drops of polio vaccine. A total of 240 cases of polio have been reported in Indonesia since March.

By Suzanne Yates

GIRIJAYA, Indonesia, 29 September 2005 – In this verdant mountain village, high in the hills of west Java, two-year-old Fikri must now learn to walk for the second time in his life. But he now stumbles with braces strapped to his legs.

Fikri was the first child in Indonesia to contract polio when the current outbreak began about seven months ago. Medical authorities here were dismayed last March when Fikri’s case was first reported. Doctors and public health officials thought the scourge had been banished from Indonesia forever.

The country had been free of polio for over a decade as a result of a global campaign to eradicate the disease, which at its peak paralyzed or killed one thousand children a day.

© UNICEF video
In a village high in the hills of west Java, Fikri – the first boy to contract polio in a new outbreak in Indonesia – must now learn to walk for the second time in his life

Global eradication

Before March 2005, only half the children in Girijaya had been inoculated. A disease of poverty, polio thrives where sanitation is poor and spreads through water contaminated by human waste. So far this year, 240 cases of polio have been reported in Indonesia.

In response to the new outbreak, the Indonesian government with support from UNICEF and partners launched a massive $24 million campaign to immunize 24 million children across the 6000 inhabited islands that make up this nation. The campaign was carried out through more than a quarter of a million health stations, with some 745,000 health workers deployed.

With only six polio-endemic countries left in the world, the epidemic in Indonesia adds a new urgency to the work of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative. Partners in the Initiative include UNICEF, the World Health Organization (WHO), Rotary International and the Centre for Disease Control (CDC). The Initiative is one of the largest public health efforts ever undertaken. 

Stephenie Hollyman contributed to this story.




27 September 2005: UNICEF Correspondent Stephenie Hollyman reports on the polio outbreak in Indonesia.

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