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Press centre

Media advisory

UNICEF Executive Director to DR Congo as polio outbreak spikes

BRUSSELS/NEW YORK/KINSHASA, 28 February 2011 – UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake will arrive in the capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo tomorrow to meet with key government officials and to visit sites where health workers are battling a rapidly spreading outbreak of polio.

He will be in the country for four days taking stock of progress made toward child survival and protection, while assessing remaining challenges posed by continued instability in the DRC.

The DRC has witnessed a sharp resurgence of polio as conditions in the country continue to complicate vaccination efforts, potentially undermining global eradication of the crippling disease. From January 2010 to February 2011 there were 112 new cases.  In 2009, only three cases were detected.

In response, preparations are underway to go door to door to vaccinate more than 14 million children by the end of May.  The aim is to make sure that no child is left unprotected.

"Eradicating polio in DRC and everywhere requires an absolute commitment by government and its partners to vaccinate every child,” said Anthony Lake, UNICEF Executive Director, from Brussels.  “UNICEF will do everything we can to support the DRC’s collective effort to defeat this evil virus once and for all.”

This is Mr. Lake’s second visit in 2011 to support polio eradication in western Africa. At the end of January, he was in Angola where a major outbreak has spread into two neighboring countries. 

In the second part of his mission, he will be travelling to the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to meet with survivors of sexual violence and children affected by the conflict, as well as volunteers and partners working on the crisis.

UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence.  The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS.  UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments. For more information about UNICEF and its work visit: www.unicef.org

For further information, please contact:
Cornelia Walther, UNICEF DRC/Kinshasa,
Mobile + 243 99 100 63 07,

Ndiaga Seck, UNICEF- Eastern Zone Office, Goma,
Tel + 243 818 305 933




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