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Africa Begins Largest-Ever Immunization Campaign

Africa Begins Largest-Ever Immunization Campaign In Bid To Beat Polio – UN

Africa today began its largest-ever immunization campaign, with more than one million vaccinators in 23 countries fanning out across the continent this month to inoculate 80 million children against polio as part of a United Nations-led response to an ongoing epidemic of the debilitating disease in the region.

Tens of thousands of traditional and religious leaders, school teachers, parents and Rotary Club members will join nurses and a vast array of other volunteers and health workers to go house-to-house and village-to-village – on foot, horseback, bicycle, boat, car or whatever means possible – to hand-deliver the vaccine to every child under the age of five.

The poliovirus is now endemic in only six countries – Nigeria, India, Pakistan, Niger, Afghanistan and Egypt – down from more than 125 when the Global Polio Eradication Initiative was launched in 1988.

But as of Wednesday there have been 786 cases reported globally in 2004 in Nigeria (597), India (62), Pakistan (31), Niger (20), Afghanistan (3) and Egypt (1), as well countries that have “imported” the disease: Benin (6), Botswana (1), Burkina Faso (6), Cameroon (2), the Central African Republic (12), Chad (16), Côte d'Ivoire (15), Guinea (1), Mali (2) and the Sudan (11).

The UN World Health Organization (WHO) stressed that if the campaigns reach enough children in the region’s hotspots, polio transmission could be expected to slow significantly by the end of this year. In some countries where the virus has a weaker foothold, transmission could stop completely by early 2005.

WHO and its partners in the Global Initiative – Rotary International, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the UN Children’s Fund UNICEF) – are spearheading this latest effort.

The countries participating in the polio campaign are: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Côte d'Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, the Republic of the Congo, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Togo and Sudan.

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