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VOA Helps in Polio Eradication Initiative - 2002-05-26

A VOA Snapshot - Part of the continuing coverage in this, VOA's 60th Anniversary Year

The Voice of America is a partner in the global fight against polio. The goal is to eradicate the infectious disease by 2005, and since the worldwide public health immunization campaign began 14 years ago, the number of new cases has fallen from 350,000 a year to 600.

Thadeus Penas manages VOA's participation, which began in 1997. "VOA is putting out a comprehensive piece of news features, public service announcements, radio jingles, listener contests, radio dramas geared toward motivating people around the world to get their children immunized against polio," said Mr. Penas.

VOA listeners also hear that message from popular sports figures like Ghanaian soccer player Abedi Pele, who said "I would like to see every child born in Africa have the chance to play football. Please brothers and sisters let's all help to kick polio out of Africa for good!"

VOA has produced more than 4,000 news and feature reports and public service announcements on polio since it joined the worldwide effort. Reporters from 14 VOA language services travel regularly to polio-endemic countries to report on how the initiative works and when and why it doesn't. For some listeners, those stories mean the difference between life and death. In 1999, the day before a National Immunization Day in Congo, rebel forces in Kinshasa had cut power to the city - putting 50 million doses of oral polio vaccine at risk. The vaccine needed to be refrigerated. A VOA reporter on the scene filed a report. Within hours of the broadcast, which was picked up by news services worldwide, international pressure had forced the rebels to restore power and save the vaccine.

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