A polio immunization campaign targeting 5.6 million children was launched in Angola yesterday as the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) warned that the southern African country was quickly becoming the greatest threat to continent-wide eradication efforts. (UN News)
Only three African countries have recorded cases of the highly infectious and potentially lethal disease in the past four months – Nigeria, Angola, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), with the latter infected from across the Angolan boarder, WHO spokesman Rod Curtis told reporters in Geneva. Areas in Angola that have previously been polio-free have been re-infected this year from an expanding outbreak, he said.
Over the next three days and again at the end of the month, WHO, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and Rotary International will be supporting tens of thousands of volunteers, health workers, parents, communities and traditional leaders as they go from house to house and village to village to ensure that every child under the age of 5 is reached with an oral polio vaccine.
WHO believes the outbreak can be rapidly stopped, even by the end of the year, if these gaps are closed.
Outside Africa, polio has been eradicated in most parts of the world, but remains endemic in Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. Last month WHO said great strides had been made towards eliminating polio in Nigeria, which has seen a 99 per cent drop in cases this year compared to 2009.