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Japan helps UNICEF eradicate polio in Ethiopia

© UNICEF Ethiopia/2005
About 15 million children are targeted during Ethiopia’s Polio National Immunization Days.

By Kun Li

NEW YORK, 15 August 2005 - As the children of Ethiopia continue to live under the threat of polio, the government of Japan has donated $5 million to help UNICEF and its partners eradicate the deadly virus in the country.

Once on the verge of being polio-free, Ethiopia fell victim to the recent polio outbreak originating in West Africa, which quickly spread to 16 countries across the region. Since the beginning of 2005, 13 Ethiopian children have been infected.

To protect children, UNICEF and its partners have conducted three rounds of Polio National Immunization Days in April, May and July of 2005, targeting 15 million children.

© UNICEF Ethiopia/2005
Children from the Karo tribe, who live along the Omo River, being immunized against polio.

“Ethiopia has no alternative but to repeat the Herculean task of defeating the virus by going door-to-door across this vast country to immunize every single child under five,” said UNICEF Representative in Ethiopia Björn Ljungqvist. “The committed support from Japan will help to ensure that Ethiopia will again triumph against polio.”

More than 100,000 volunteers and health workers travelled across the country to administer the oral polio vaccine to children. The poorest communities, such as the remote Karo Tribe, who live along the Omo River, are especially targeted.

“When we get to our assigned village the first person we meet is the village chief. He then accompanies us to all the huts. I will go to every home, and vaccinate a minimum of 50 children every day,” said one volunteer, 'Doctor' Dendeko.

Epidemiologists agree that large-scale immunization campaigns like this one in Ethiopia are the only way to stop the progression of the deadly virus. But funding for further campaigns are running dangerously low. An additional $17.5 million is urgently needed for UNICEF and its partners to conduct more immunization campaigns – and protect the lives of more children.




15 August 2005:
UNICEF Correspondent Kun Li reports on a massive immunization campaign to protect 15 million children from polio.

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