The Malawi government announced Thursday that it would launch a nationwide polio vaccination campaign next month after it was discovered that a four-year-old girl had contracted the disease, the first case of polio in Malawi in 30 years. President Lazarus Chakwera has declared a national emergency.
"The upcoming polio vaccination campaign...will target around 2.9 million children across the country," Malawi's health ministry director, Queen Dube, told newswire Agence France Presse, adding that they were targeting children aged under five years.
Malawi has ordered some 14 million doses of vaccines.
The four-year-old who had contracted wild poliovirus had not been fully immunised, according to the World Health Organization's Malawi representative, Janet Kayita.
This is the first cast on the African continent in 30 years, and Kayita said that the vaccination campaign will extend beyond Malawi's borders to neighboring countries.
People travelling to Malawi may be required to be vaccinated for polio in order to halt the spread of the virus, said Minister Dube, but this would be decided during a meeting on Monday.
She added that it was difficult to establish how the Malawian four-year-old became infected, but laboratory analysis showed that it is a strain that has been circulating in Sindh Province in Pakistan.
The virus attacks the spinal cord and causes irreversible damage, but can be prevented with an effective and cheap vaccine. The African continent was declared free of wild polio in August 2020 after a comprehensive continent-wide vaccination campaign.