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Polio stopped again in 10 African countries as major immunization campaigns launch

Two health workers from a mobile immunization team register children during the NIDs campaign against polio, in Kwachiri, in northern Kano State, Nigeria.

By Sabine Dolan

NEW YORK, USA, 11 November 2005 – Twenty-eight African countries are launching synchronized polio immunization campaigns today in a concerted effort to help drive the virus out of the continent forever. Meanwhile public health officials have confirmed that a polio epidemic which recently flared in 10 African countries has been successfully stopped, as a result of similar campaigns earlier this year.

UNICEF Technical Officer for Polio Dennis King says the stopping of the epidemic is a remarkable achievement. “It’s a real testament to the commitment of the political leadership, civic and religious, the African Union, Rotary International and all the global partners to mobilize for a second time.” The countries involved include Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, Mali and Togo.

Emergency efforts to stop the epidemic consisted of mass immunization campaigns, reaching 100 million children in these and other countries. The campaigns were largely supported by $135 million from the European Commission, Canada and Sweden.

The new 28-country drive is the 6th in a series of synchronized immunization drives, and is the first element of a 'maintenance' programme to sustain progress made so far in the fight against the virus.  An additional series of synchronized immunization activities will take place in November and December of this year. 

A child, held by his mother, receives a dose of oral polio vaccine as others look on, during the NIDs campaign against polio, in Kwachiri, in northern Kano State, Nigeria.

Threat of polio far from over

Over the last year alone, more than 100 million African children have been immunized with the oral polio vaccine.  But the threat is far from over and polio eradication efforts are still intensifying in Nigeria, where extensive disease transmission continues. The Nigerian government has committed to further strengthening its polio eradication programme.

The polio outbreak which began in Nigeria in mid-2003 and was subsequently stopped in June 2005 paralyzed nearly 200 children for life – children whose health could have been saved by just a few drops of vaccine. 

In Africa and across the world, UNICEF’s primary responsibilities have focused around vaccine procurement distribution. Dennis King says the organization is also “the lead agency for social mobilization and communication, that is, informing and convincing the population of the importance of immunization against polio.”

Partners in the worldwide effort to eradicate polio include the World Health Organization (WHO), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Rotary International and UNICEF.





11 November 2005:
UNICEF New York correspondent Sabine Dolan reports on the launch of a mass synchronized polio immunization campaign in Africa.

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