Seven million children in nine of the 11 provinces in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are being vaccinated against polio, a disease thought to have been eradicated in the vast country.
“Provinces the Congo river crosses are the most threatened and the river is the epicentre of the disease,” said UN World Health Programme spokesman Eugene Kabambi.
DRC Health Minister Makwenge Kaput said the polio threat came from the neighbouring Central African Republic.
“As the epidemiological situation evolves in the central African region with the reappearance of the wild polio virus, the virus has entered several health zones and propagated in Equateur and Orientale provinces,” he said.
The only unaffected provinces in the country are Kasai Oriental and Kasai Occidental.
Kabambi said 56 new cases of polio had been recorded since 2006. According to the Health Ministry, no cases of polio were recorded at all between 2000 and 2005. Since January 2008, two cases have appeared, one in a camp for displaced people in Rutshuru, in North Kivu, the other in Oriental Province.
The campaign, which began on 19 June, targets children up to the age of five, the age group worst affected by polio. One in 200 infections leads to irreversible paralysis, according to the WHO.
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