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19.11.2004 General News

Second round of polio immunization begins

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Accra, Nov. 19, GNA - The second round of cross-border polio immunization started on Friday in Ghana and other 23 African countries. The house-to-house campaign follows a successful first round held last month.

A statement from the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) said vaccinators plan to reach every child less than five years old and even more than the 80 million immunized during the last round on the Continent. The campaign would further focus on children in remote and hard to reach communities.

UNICEF said vaccinators were able to reach approximately 90 per cent of children under five years in many participating countries. In addition vitamin A, which can reduce child mortality by over 20 per cent and prevent blindness, will also administered with the polio vaccine in several countries.

The statement said concern was paramount for children in C=F4te d'Ivoire, where conflict had forced a postponement of the immunization drive.

"The upsurge in violence in the country and the resultant increase in cross-border movements as the population seeks safe haven could carry virus into countries neighbouring C=F4te d'Ivoire." UNICEF urged nations bordering all conflict-affected countries to strengthen polio surveillance and make special plans to immunize children who were difficult to reach, along borders wherever there was high population movement.

The statement said the continuing reach of immunization drives was being curtailed by a funding shortfall of 200 million dollars for the coming year of which 35 million was needed urgently in order to carry out low season campaigns in the early part of 2005. Despite the situation in C=F4te, African governments are hopeful that these immunization drives will bring polio back under control in the Region.

The statement said stopping polio in Africa was the key to global eradication efforts.

The immunization efforts are supported by the Global Polio Eradication Initiative; World Health Organization; Rotary International; US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention and UNICEF.

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