Government and its partners intensify efforts to stop the transmission of the Polio Virus

14 May 2019
A child being vaccinated while his mother and sibling look on.
UNICEF PNG/Holt/2019
A health worker vaccinates children in Kavieng, New Ireland Province.

PORT MORESBY, 24/01/2019 – In a bid to stop the transmission of the polio virus in Papua New Guinea, the National Department of Health (NDOH) with support from UNICEF and World Health Organization (WHO) today announced the second phase of the National Polio Immunization Outbreak Response for 2019.

The first round of the second phase of the polio national campaign will kick off on 18th February 2019 targeting over 3.34 million children aged 0-15 years with two drops of the oral polio vaccine.

Since the outbreak of polio in June 2018, there have been 26 confirmed cases affecting children in nine provinces. Polio which is a highly infectious disease is known to permanently paralyze or even cause death in children. The Government and its partners have been working to stop the spread of the disease through national immunization days targeting children, especially the most vulnerable in the hardest to reach areas of the country.

“In the last round of polio immunization days 97 per cent of the targeted 3.3m children under the age of 15 were immunized against polio but there’s still a danger of the disease affecting children because of the current outbreak in our country. This calls for a collective action from parents, guardians, caregivers, community leaders, religious leaders, politicians and everyone in the community to ensure that all children are immunized against polio,” says the Minister for Health and HIV,Sir Dr Puka Temu.

Despite the many challenges such as difficult terrain, insecurity and lack of communication infrastructure, 12 out of the 22 provinces managed to vaccinate over 95% of the targeted number of children in their provinces. However, the coverage remained suboptimal in some provinces with the lowest being in 72%in New Ireland province. According to a Joint UNICEF and WHO report (JRF), Papua New Guinea has one of the lowest routine immunization coverage globally with only 47% of children under one year old completing the required immunization doses.

“The current polio outbreak underscores the risks that children in Papua New Guinea continue to face due to low routine immunization coverage. We will fail the children of this nation if we allow them to be paralysed or die from preventable diseases. It is therefore our shared obligation as the community in Papua New Guinea to intensify our efforts in the response to the outbreak by supporting and mobilizing communities and families to vaccinate their children and through working collectively to support the Government in strengthening the health systems in the country,” says UNICEF Representative, Mr. David Mcloughlin.

The only way to end the transmission of the polio virus is to reach every child including those in the hardest to reach areas with the much-needed polio vaccine. This can only be achieved by combining the efforts of all Government departments including Education, Youth and Sports, all the members of parliament, church leaders, national and international NGOs, the Private sector , religious leaders, youth groups and women groups.

“We salute and thank the parents, guardians and caregivers who brought in their children to be vaccinated every time an immunization campaign was carried out in 2018. It is imperative that you continue to bring your children in to be vaccinated when we kick off the first round of the national immunization campaign for this year, irrespective of the number of times your child received the polio vaccine last year. We can only ensure full protection of our children with multiple dozes of the polio vaccine,” said Dr Luo Dapeng, WHO Country Representative in Papua New Guinea.

The World Health Organization will continue to support the government’s efforts to stop the transmission of polio among our children.

UNICEF supports the Ministry of Health to vaccinate children by supplying vaccines, providing logistical support, improving cold chain to ensure vaccines reach every province in the country and supports social mobilization activities at all levels. To support the polio response in Papua New Guinea, UNICEF has procured 10.3 million doses of oral polio vaccine to meet the demands of all supplementary immunization activities.

Media Contacts

Noreen Chambers

Communication Specialist

UNICEF

Tel: +675 321 3000

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