Health Desk-- 25 March, 2017: Deputy UN spokesman Farhan Haq said on Friday said more than 190,000 polio vaccinators in 13 countries across West and Central Africa will immunize over 116 million children, to tackle the last remaining stronghold of polio on the continent.
He said that all children under five years of age in Benin, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Cote d'Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria and Sierra Leone, will be simultaneously immunized in a coordinated effort to raise childhood immunity to polio across the continent.
"The synchronized vaccination campaign is one of the largest of its kind ever implemented in Africa," Haq said.
Of particular concern are the five Lake Chad Basin countries. Four children were paralysed by the disease last year in northeastern Nigeria where insecurity cut off health access. This area is one of the few where polio is active.
The World Health Organization (WHO) and the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) in a press release said, all children under five years of age in the 13 countries will be simultaneously immunized in a coordinated effort to raise childhood immunity to polio across the continent.
Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO regional director for Africa, said, "Every single country on the continent was endemic to polio, and every year, more than 75,000 children were paralysed for life by this terrible disease. Thanks to the dedication of governments, communities,parents and health workers, this disease is now beaten back to this final reservoir".
UNICEF regional director for West and Central Africa, Marie-Pierre Poirier said, "Polio eradication will be an unparalleled victory, which will not only save all future generations of children from the grip of a disease that is entirely preventable, but will show the world what Africa can do when it unites behind a common goal".
More than, 190,000 polio vaccinators will deliver bivalent oral polio vaccine (bOPV) to every house across all cities, towns and villages of the 13 countries. "Volunteers and health workers will work up to 12 hours per day, travelling on foot or bicycle, in often stifling humidity and temperatures in excess of 40oC, organizers said.
According to the press release, each vaccination team will carry the vaccine in special carrier bags, filled with ice packs to ensure the vaccine remains below the required 8 celsius degrees".
The campaign will run through March 28.