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New polio cases in Borno State underline risks for children in conflict, says UNICEF

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Rotary moves to tackle rejection of vaccines, mobilises communities for routine immunisation

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) on Tuesday said the sobering news that two children have been paralyzed by wild poliovirus in northeastern Nigeria underscores the urgency of eradicating the disease in conflict-affected areas.

UNICEF Polio Eradication Director, Reza Hossaini, in a statement, said: “We cannot deny the connection between conflict and the continued threat of polio. The two new cases mean children across the Lake Chad region are now at particular risk. With our partners, we will not stop until we reach every child with polio vaccination.”

The Federal Ministry of Health of Nigeria, supported by the World Health Organisation (WHO), UNICEF and partners of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, are rolling out an emergency immunization campaign, starting in the accessible parts of Borno state.

Meanwhile, worried about the two fresh cases of Wild Polio Virus (WPV) recorded in Borno State, Rotary has taken the campaign for continuous routine immunisation to communities in Abuja.

Top on the agenda for the campaign is a call on families to accept the Polio vaccines and to support government and its partners to check further cases.To press home their message, over 200 Rotarians from various Rotary Clubs in Abuja joined the Rotary Club of Abuja-Gwarinpa on ‘End Polio Now Walk.’Officials described the Walk as an advocacy campaign to push for continuous routine immunisation to families within the Club’s adopted community, Gwarinpa (considered the biggest Estate in West Africa), and it’s environs.

“In the light of the two new cases recorded this week, our target is to end polio in Nigeria. We hope to achieve this by working with partners to strengthen routine immunisation infrastructure; develop a robust surveillance system; designate high quality immunisation days.

“We are going to continue advocacy to ensure full engagement of political, traditional and religious leaders in the process,” President of the Rotary Club of Abuja, Gwarinpa, Angela Agbayekhai told newsmen.

She added: “Communication is key to increasing acceptance of vaccination everywhere. It may interest you to know that there are cases of vaccine refusal even in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). We there see awareness creation as an effective tool for mobilisation.”She said the End Polio Now Walk was intended to mobilise government support for immunisation services and help diminish visible threats of complacency.

Chair of the Club’s PolioPlus Committee, Nnenna Anekwe spoke on the need for the federal government to also contribute its quota to support towards making Nigeria a Polio free nation.Assistant Corp Commandant from the Zonal Public Education Unit of the Federal Road Safety Commission, Doris Alexander, stressed that the Commission was partnering with Rotary to create more awareness on Polio eradication.

The Government of Nigeria and the World Health Organization have confirmed an outbreak of wild poliovirus in conflict-ridden Borno state, where children are already facing dangerously high levels of malnutrition. The two cases were discovered in parts of Borno that have recently become accessible, but large areas of the state remain unreachable.

Nigeria – and the continent – had its last confirmed polio case two years ago and was within a year of being certified polio-free, thanks to a massive mobilization by the government, partners and local health providers.


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polioReza HossainiUNICEF
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