Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Polio: UNICEF to vaccinate 41m children in Nigeria, Lake Chad Region

The United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) says it has set out major health campaign in the Lake Chad Basin Region to vaccinate no fewer than 41 million children against polio.

The UNICEF Regional Director for West and Central Africa, Manuel Fontaine, said this in a statement signed by Mrs Doune Porter, the Chief of Communication, on Wednesday in Abuja.

Fontaine said that the campaign was to contain the recent outbreak of the disease in the North-East Zone of Nigeria.

He said that the number of people fleeing the conflict areas were on the increase within the sub-region.

Fontaine said it was evidence that the virus could spread across borders.

He said that no fewer than 39,000 health workers had been deployed across Nigeria and neighbouring Chad, Niger, Cameroon and the Central African Republic to deliver the polio vaccines.

According to him, the vaccines will be delivered in areas at high-risk of the virus during the five rounds of coordinated vaccination campaigns across the five countries.

He said that UNICEF was procuring the vaccines and engaging the public through mass media and grassroots mobilisation.

“The re-emergence of polio after two years with no recorded cases is a huge concern in an area that is already in crisis.

“The scale of our response reflects the urgency. We must not allow polio to spread.

“The ongoing conflict has now displaced 2.6 million people, devastated provision of healthcare and left more than four million people in North-East Nigeria facing crisis and emergency food security levels.

“In the three worst-hit Nigerian states, 400,000 children will suffer from severe acute malnutrition this year,’’ he said.

Fontaine said that the polio vaccination teams in some parts of Borno were conducting simultaneous malnutrition screening to identify severe cases of acute malnutrition in children under five.

According to him, findings from the first round of the outreach screening have confirmed high rate of acute malnutrition.

He said, “Children are dying and more young lives will be lost unless we scale up our response.

“Through the polio vaccination drive, we can protect more children from the virus, while also reaching children in need with treatment for malnutrition.

“The third round of the current polio campaign runs from Oct. 15 to 18 with additional rounds scheduled for November and December.

“The immunisation campaign is being delivered by national governments, with support from UNICEF, the World Health Organisation (WHO), Rotary International, the U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.’’

The UNICEF regional director also identified the coordinated efforts between the polio vaccination campaigns and childhood nutrition screenings as part of UNICEF’s scaled-up response to the crisis.

“UNICEF’s response remains hampered by continued insecurity, especially in areas of Borno in Nigeria and by lack of funding.

“Of the 158 million dollars needed for UNICEF’s emergency response in the region, only 50.4 million dollars has so far been received,’’ Fontaine said.