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Joint press release

Fighting back against polio in Nigeria

ABUJA, November 16 2004 - Every child must be reached during the upcoming National Immunization Day (NID) in Nigeria which kicks off on 20 November. As of November 12 2004, WHO has confirmed that 682 Nigerian children under the age of five years old have been paralyzed by polio this year, which accounts for 74% of the global polio case count. 

Dr. Dere Awosika, Chief Executive Officer of the National Programme on Immunization (NPI) has called on all Parents of children aged five years old and under, to ensure that their children are immunized from Saturday 20th to Tuesday 23rd of November.  Dr Awosika said: “The future survival of our children is in our hands.  Let us all join hands together and use all our resources to protect our children, who constitute our hope for this nation”.  

From 20-23 November, thousands of volunteers and health-workers will go door to door, house to house, village to village in Nigeria, at the same time as 22 other countries in Africa during the synchronized National Immunization Days. November 20, the start of Nigeria's National Immunization Days, is also Universal Children's Day, the anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, signed by the Nigerian Government in 1991. This Convention obliges Countries to ensure the survival and development of the child to the maximum extent possible.

Dr. Ezio Murzi, UNICEF Representative said: “Since 1988 when the eradication initiative was begun, polio held sway in more than 125 countries, paralyzing 1,000 children every day”.  Dr. Murzi further said: “Today, the UNICEF, WHO, Rotary International and its national partners such as NPI have slashed polio cases by more than 99 per cent; from 1,000 cases per day to 1,000 cases per year”. 

In Nigeria, polio eradication was on track until the Oral Polio Vaccines controversy in 2003. The NPI and its partners are calling on more effort to be put in place in Nigeria, as transmission of the wild poliovirus has significantly increased from 355 cases in 19 States in 2003 to 682 cases in 31 States today.  Poliovirus can travel from village to village and country to country, through un-immunized children. One unimmunized child anywhere puts children at risk everywhere.
“To eradicate polio completely, every Nigerian family must be a good neighbor” said Professor Sadiq Wali – former Chief Medical Director of Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital, “Parents should remember that there is only one protection against polio and life-long paralysis:  that is, every child under the age of five years must receive the polio vaccine during every round of polio immunization campaigns."

Further Information for journalists:

List of countries for synchroNIDs:
Benin, Burkina-Faso, Cameroon, Cap Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo-Brazzaville, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Togo.

Polio affected countries in Africa
Endemic: Niger, Nigeria, Egypt
Re-infected: Benin, Botswana, Burkina-Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, Mali, Togo, Sudan
At risk: Cape Verde, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mauritania, Senegal & Sierra Leone

Polio is a viral disease that is transmitted from person to person through fecal-oral transmission and is therefore more endemic in regions with inadequate access to clean water and poor sanitation, with children being most susceptible to the disease. 

There is no cure for polio. It can only be prevented through immunization.

Multiple doses of oral polio vaccine are safe. To eradicate polio, every child under 5 years must receive the polio vaccine multiple times, regardless of previous immunization status. 

For more information, please contact:

Hajia Giwa, NPI +234 (0) 803 314 1681
Christine Jaulmes, UNICEF Nigeria+234 (0)803 649 7630, cjaulmes@unicef.org
Melissa Corkum, WHO Nigeria +234 (0) 803 628 5305, corkumm@who.int

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