News / Africa

85 Million Children To Be Immunized Against Polio In West And Central Africa

Lisa Schlein

United Nations and international aid agencies are kicking off a mass polio immunization campaign across 19 countries in West and Central Africa on Saturday.  The agencies say they aim to vaccinate more than 85 million children under five against the poliovirus in an effort to stop a year-long polio epidemic in the region.  

The agencies say a previous round of campaigns in 2009 did not stop the polio outbreak that swept West and Central Africa because not enough children were vaccinated to stop polio transmission.

The aid agencies say they have learned from this experience.  A spokesman for the World Health Organization, Rod Curtis, says more than 400,000 volunteers and health workers are taking part in this campaign.

"And, when you have 400,000 vaccinators literally going door-to-door to every single dwelling in these 19 countries to reach every child under five, this is very important," said Rod Curtis. "Epidemiologically, it is important because it reaches children everywhere.  So, if you have families that are traveling to a neighboring country, it gets to traveling children as well.  And, it also raises immunity both to stop this outbreak by reaching every child, but also to raise immunity to ensure against future outbreaks."  

WHO reports nine countries in West and Central Africa have had outbreaks of polio within the last six months.  They include Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Senegal and Sierra Leone.

The poliovirus spread from Nigeria to countries across West and Central Africa in 2008.  Many of the countries, which had been polio free, became re-infected.

The polio epidemic initially spread in Nigeria from the northern Islamic part of the country.  Religious leaders refused to allow their children to get immunized, claiming the vaccine was contaminated and could cause AIDS and sterilization.

Curtis says the religious leaders have since changed their view.  He says Nigeria has benefited greatly from the north's participation in national immunization campaigns over the last 12 months.

"Whereas this time last year, polio was being widely transmitted throughout Nigeria, with 42 cases already recorded in 16 states by this time in 2009, this year we have had one case in total throughout the country," he said.

When WHO began its Global Eradication Campaign in 1988, more than 350,000 children in more than 125 countries were paralyzed each year.  In 2009, WHO reports nearly 1,600 children were paralyzed by polio in 24 countries.  So far this year, only 34 cases of this crippling disease have been reported around the world.

The aid agencies plan a follow-up campaign in the same 19 countries on April 24.  These immunization campaigns are made possible by a $30 million contribution by Rotary International.

You May Like

800-Pound Man Determined to Slim Down

Man says he was kicked out of hospital for ordering pizza; wants to be an actor More

Australia Prepares to Resettle 12,000 Syrian Refugees

Preference will be given to refugees from persecuted minorities, and the first group is expected to arrive before late December More

S. African Miners Seek Class Action Suit Against Gold Mines

The estimated 100,000 say say they contracted the lung diseases silicosis and tuberculosis in the mines More

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemeni
Henry Ridgwell
October 12, 2015 4:03 PM
The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemen

The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video No Resolution in Sight to US House Speaker Drama

Uncertainty grips the U.S. Congress, where no consensus replacement has emerged to succeed Republican House Speaker John Boehner after his surprise resignation announcement. Half of Congress is effectively leaderless weeks before America risks defaulting on its national debt and enduring another partial government shutdown.

Video New Art Exhibit Focuses on Hope

Out of struggle and despair often comes hope. That idea is behind a new art exhibit at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. "The Big Hope Show" features 25 artists, some of whom overcame trauma and loss. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Columbus Day Still Generates Controversy as US Holiday

The second Monday of October is Columbus Day in the United States, honoring explorer Christopher Columbus and his discovery of the Americas. The achievement is a source of pride for many, but for some the holiday is marked by controversy. Adrianna Zhang has more.

Video Anger Simmers as Turks Begin to Bury Blast Victims

The Turkish army carried out new air strikes on Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) targets on Sunday, a day after the banned group announced a unilateral cease fire. The air raids apparently are in retaliation for the Saturday bombing in Turkey's capital Ankara that killed at least 95 people and wounded more than 200 others. But as Zlatica Hoke reports, there are suspicions that Islamic State is involved.

Video Bombings a Sign of Turkey’s Deep Troubles

Turkey has begun a three-day period of mourning following Saturday’s bomb attacks in the capital, Ankara, that killed nearly 100 people. With contentious parliamentary elections three weeks away, the attacks highlight the challenges Turkey is facing as it struggles with ethnic friction, an ongoing migrant crisis, and growing tensions with Russia. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Afghanistan’s Progress Aided by US Academic Center

Recent combat in Afghanistan has shifted world attention back to the central Asian nation’s continuing civil war and economic challenges. But, while there are many vexing problems facing Afghanistan’s government and people, a group of academics in Omaha, Nebraska has kept a strong faith in the nation’s future through programs to improve education. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Omaha, Nebraska.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video In 'He Named Me Malala,' Guggenheim Finds Normal in Extraordinary

Davis Guggenheim’s documentary "He Named Me Malala" offers a probing look into the life of 18-year-old Malala Yousafsai, the Pakistani teenager who, in 2012, was shot in the head by the Taliban for standing up for her right to education in her hometown in Pakistan's Swat Valley. Guggenheim shows how, since then, Malala has become a symbol not as a victim of brutal violence, but as an advocate for girls’ education throughout the world. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.

Video Paintable Solar Cells May Someday Replace Silicon-Based Panels

Solar panels today are still factory-manufactured, with the use of some highly toxic substances such as cadmium chloride. But a researcher at St. Mary’s College, Maryland, says we are close to being able to create solar panels by painting them on a suitable surface, using nontoxic solutions. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs