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Campaign against polio launched

Polio vaccination. UNICEF
Un enfant recevant le vaccin contre la poliomyélite (photo d’archives)
A vaccination campaign against polio has been launched in the East African nations of Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda to pre-empt a possible crossover of the disease from neighbouring Sudan, which has recently reported some cases. The campaign follows recent reports by the World Health Organization (WHO) that Sudan had recorded more than 110 polio cases in 17 states in 2004, the third highest caseload in the world after Nigeria and India. Uganda's campaign, which kicked off on Saturday and Sunday, targeted children under the age of five and took place in 15 northern districts that share a border with Sudan. Another two-day run is expected to begin on 7 May. "We want Uganda to remain polio free, and together, we can create a barrier for polio never to return to Uganda," Martin Mogwanja, UNICEF representative for Uganda, said on Saturday during the launch. "This is a time to accelerate efforts to ensure the prevention of imported cases," he added. "Importation of polio will remain a risk until the debilitating disease is eradicated everywhere." Several international agencies, governments and NGOs spearheaded the drive, which was part of the "Coast-to-Coast Polio Drive to Counter Epidemic in Africa", a joint international effort launched on Friday to counter polio in Africa. In Kenya, the Sudanese outbreak led the health ministry earlier this month to order health officials in the districts of Turkana, West Pokot and Marsabit, which border Sudan, to begin a campaign to immunise all children below the age of five against polio. Meanwhile in Ethiopia, WHO reported that the first case of polio in four years had been identified in a two-year-old girl. The agency noted that Ethiopia had become the 14th previously polio-free country to record an imported case of the disease. The confirmation of the case followed the November launch of an emergency polio vaccination campaign amid fears that the disease could spread from neighbouring Sudan. Efforts to stamp out the disease were underway following the confirmation of the disease. "The virus will move relentlessly forward unless it is stopped with high-quality campaigns," Bruce Aylward, coordinator of WHO's global polio eradication initiative, told a news conference in Geneva on Friday. "There is a big risk of further spread if these aren't successful." Reports of polio cases in Sudan last year prompted a nationwide immunisation programme coordinated by the Sudanese Ministry of Health, WHO and UNICEF to vaccinate six million children under the age of five. The "Coast-to-Coast" drive spans 22 countries and intends to vaccinate 100 million children across the African continent against the debilitating illness.

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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