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Polio immunizations begin today in Uganda

Campaign aims to reach 1.4 million children in 15 northern districts in response to confirmed polio cases in southern Sudan

KAMPALA, UGANDA, 26 February 2005 – The first of two rounds of immunizations to protect more than a million children in Uganda against the threat of polio begins today in 15 districts of the country bordering Sudan, in a campaign led by the Ministry of Health with the support of UNICEF, WHO and other partners.

The 26-27 February Sub-National Immunization Days (SNIDs) aims to reach approximately 1.45 children, from newborns to five-year-olds, in the districts of Apac, Gulu, Lira, Kitgum, Pader, Adjumani, Arua, Masindi, Nebbi, Kotido, Moyo, Yumbe, Moroto, Nakapiripirit and Katakwi.  Children under the age of five will also be vaccinated against measles.  In addition, health workers will screen children under the age of 1 for vaccinations against tuberculosis, diphtheria, haemophilus influenza and hepatitis B; and screen women of childbearing age (15-45) for vaccinations against tetanus.  Parents and families are advised to ensure their children, whose health cards show their vaccination schedules need to updated, to each receive two doses of the Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV) during the two rounds.

A second round of SNIDs will be conducted in the same districts, 7-8 May 2005, in which children aged six months to five years will also be dewormed and given Vitamin A supplementation as part of the national “Child Days” initiative.

This latest campaign is being launched formally today in Gulu District by a senior government representative.

Uganda’s SNIDs are being conducted to prevent the importation of the wild poliovirus from Sudan where more than 120 polio cases have been confirmed, including 8 in southern Sudan.  While no wild poliovirus has been reported in Uganda since 1997, a recent polio outbreak risk analysis for Uganda has identified the 15 districts to be covered by the campaign as being at high risk, particularly with the vulnerability of children exacerbated by the disruption in health service delivery due to the armed conflict.  The immunization effort in the 15 districts is being synchronised with similar activities in Sudan, Eritrea, Kenya, Chad, Central African Republic, Libya, Ethiopia and Democratic Republic of Congo.

UNICEF Representative in Uganda, Martin Mogwanja, reaffirmed the agency’s support to the campaign and commended other partners for assisting the “response to prevent polio as an urgent public health threat.”

“Immunizing children is a national and indeed a global public good that benefits everyone, and this is not the time for complacency.  This is a time to accelerate efforts to ensure the prevention of imported cases.  Importation of polio will remain a risk until the debilitating disease is eradicated everywhere,” he said.

Key partners for the Uganda SNIDs include the Department for International Development (UK), Government of Canada, Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization, Danish International Development Agency, Development Cooperation (Ireland) and US Agency for International Development/Uganda Programme for Human and Holistic Development.

UNICEF provides technical assistance, vaccines and vaccine storage equipment among other activities of the campaign.  UNICEF staff in Uganda are also deployed to assist in monitoring activities.

For more information, please contact:
Chulho Hyun, UNICEF Uganda, +256(0)77 222347, chyun@unicef.org





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