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WHO Launching Somalia Emergency Polio Immunization

UN Health Agency Launching Emergency Polio Immunization Campaign in Somalia

New York, Jun 16 2005 3:00PM

With polio emerging in two countries near to Somalia, the United Nations public health agency will launch a nationwide anti-polio drive in Somalia tomorrow to protect millions of children from the paralyzing virus.

"The outbreaks of polio in Ethiopia and Yemen, coupled with large population movements between Somalia and its neighbours, have put Somali children at risk of polio," David Heymann, Polio Eradication Representative at the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva, said.

Somalia has been free of polio since 2002.

"It is crucial that all efforts are made to ensure that the polio virus is not allowed to reverse the gains made so far in Somalia," the WHO representative for Somalia, Ibrahim Betelmal, said.

Over the past 12 months the disease had also broken out in Sudan, infecting 152 children, he added.

WHO said that, together with the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), it has organized tens of thousands of volunteers, health workers and parents, as well as community, religious and traditional leaders, to move from house-to-house and village-to-village across the country to hand-deliver the polio vaccine to every child under age 5.

Immunization would be carried out this weekend in the self-declared autonomous region of Puntland, on 18 to 20 June in the self-declared Republic of Somaliland, and from 24 to 26 June in the south and central areas of the country.

According to WHO, vaccinators would initially use the recently developed monovalent oral polio vaccine Type 1 (mOPV1), which has been known to boost children's immunity more rapidly than the commonly used trivalent oral polio vaccine. Further campaigns would take place in July, August and September, it said.

ENDS

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