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Turning the tide: tackling polio in the Republic of Congo

Brazzaville, Congo, 14 December 2010 – More than four million vaccines were administered during the second round of the emergency polio vaccination campaign in the Republic of Congo that is to be concluded today.

The immunisation rounds are designed to halt the spread of the disease and have already reduced the number of people falling sick as well as slowing the mortality rate from an unusually high 47% to 42%.

"Since October we have brought in 18 million vaccines for the Ministry of Health, and this has been a huge logistic challenge that UNICEF has shared with the Word Health Organization and Rotary International" said Marianne Flach, UNICEF’s Country Representative.

"Some of the areas are difficult to reach but the threat of this disease to children and adults means we are determined to get to everyone in the country. We simply cannot be complacent. This is a terrible disease that spreads fast".

As of the date of 10 December, 513 people have been affected by the polio outbreak. This illness affects the nervous system, and can lead to paralysis and death. More than 200 people have died.

Not only is there a high mortality rate in this outbreak but the victims are not – as usual - under five years of age but are mostly young men and women aged between 15 and 29.

As part of the concerted vaccination effort, a third round of immunisation is due to take place early next year.

"These campaigns are not just about the vaccines" added Mrs Flach. "They can only succeed through the mobilisation and hard work of thousands of health workers and volunteers, who go from door to door to ensure that everyone is reached. While undertaking the vaccination, we stress the importance of working with communities who will have already received messages on why they have to be immunised".

"The effort is proving to be successful. Though the daily number of new cases is decreasing, we need to keep the pace of this action for which an additional funding of USD $3 Million is still needed" concluded Mrs Flach.

For more information, please contact:
Jean-Marie Samuel Ouenabio, UNICEF Brazzaville, tel + 242 551 2687, email :



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