YAOUNDE, CAMEROON - The United Nations said it is assisting six Central African countries in organizing synchronized vaccinations after Cameroon reported a fifth case of the wild polio virus in its territory.
Four wild polio virus cases have been reported in Cameroon's neighbor to the south, Equatorial Guinea, this year.
Charlotte Faty Ndiaye, the resident representative of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Cameroon, said all children under the age of five in Chad, Gabon, Congo Brazzaville and the Central African Republic should be inoculated because the spread of polio in neighboring Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea has made the crippling disease an international public health emergency.
Considered an exporting country
Faty Ndiaye said Cameroon is an exporting country for the virus and WHO elevated the risk assessment of the international spread of polio from central Africa, particularly Cameroon, to "very high," and she expects all children in the area to be vaccinated so that the wild polio virus can be eradicated from the world.
All hospitals in Central Africa have been equipped with anti-polio vaccines since the WHO and countries of the region organized the first phase of the campaign last September.
The second phase will begin on October 31.
Faty Ndiaye said the six Central African governments should continue to vaccinate all children to stop the spread of the virus.
"We are appealing to all Central African countries to take part in the synchronized vaccination days so that this disease should be eradicated," she said.
The WHO recommended citizens of affected countries traveling abroad to carry a vaccination certificate but that has not been possible in Central African countries, such as the war-torn Central African Republic.
Cameroon's minister of health, Andre Mama Fouda, told VOA that his country is determined to eradicate the disease, but that it will not be possible without neighboring countries cooperating.
Mama Fouda said Cameroon has taken moves to eradicate polio and that in the near future it will no longer be considered an exporting country for the disease.
He said he is appealing to all Central African countries to do the same because when one country is affected, it is the entire region that is threatened.
417 cases in 2013
The WHO recorded 417 cases of polio worldwide in 2013. In 2014, it had already recorded 68 cases as of April 30 - up from 24 in the same period a year ago.
Afghanistan, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Iraq, Israel and Somalia are listed by WHO as posing an on-going risk for new wild polio-virus exportation in 2014.
The spread of the virus in recent years has been attributed to attacks on vaccination agents in some countries, little importance given to vaccination campaigns and negligence by some families.
Increased temperatures increase the spread of the virus.
The virus is transmitted from person to person through food and water contaminated by fecal material.
This year the WHO declared the spread of polio an international public health emergency that could grow in the next few months and unravel the nearly three-decade effort to eradicate the crippling disease.