111 Million Children in Four Days

West and Central Africa Polio Campaign Enters Decisive Phase

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Every last child must be reached WHO/C. Lamoureux

Brazzaville/Dakar, 21 March 2012 — Health Ministries, UN agencies and communities are uniting with tens of thousands of volunteer immunizers over four days to go door-to-door and hut to hut for a vaccination campaign against polio in 20 African countries starting on 23 March.

The vaccination campaigns are critical to protect children before the ‘high season’ for polio, which starts in the northern hemisphere summer. Due to insufficient funding, the polio eradication initiative is scaling back campaigns planned from March to July in over 20 countries. Many of these countries remain therefore vulnerable to polio outbreaks. The reduction in vaccination activities leaves the eradication effort with a funding shortfall of US$405 million for 2012.

Across West and Central Africa, over 111.1 million children below the age of five are expected to be vaccinated through this campaign. Nigeria, the only polio endemic country in Africa, aims to get two drops of the oral vaccine into the mouths of 57.7 million children. Nineteen other countries, which are at risk of re-infection, are stepping up efforts to reach nearly 53.3 million children.

This gigantic exercise represents a dramatic effort of will by governments and partners, and relies on hundreds of thousands of health workers and volunteers who will be administering the drops to all children under the age of five, irrespective of their previous immunization status.

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To reach every last child, health workers sometimes travel on motorcycles and walk for hours to deliver the all-important life-saving vaccines. On the frontlines of the polio programme, health workers protect millions of children.