Tuesday, June 22, 2010

U.S. AID pledges $1.2 million to fight polio in central Asia

From BNO News:

WASHINGTON, D.C. -– The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has pledged $1.2 million in support for national poliomyelitis (polio) vaccination campaigns across central Asia to fight the first outbreak of polio in the region since 2002.

This current polio outbreak is one of the largest outbreaks worldwide in recent years with 239 cases of confirmed polio cases in Tajikistan, which account for as much as 80 percent of all confirmed cases in the world this year.

As of Friday, Central Asia has reported 717 cases of acute flaccid paralysis (AFP), a polio outcome that affects approximately 1 percent of all polio victims. This indicates that there are likely thousands of active infections throughout the region.

Polio mainly affects children under 5 years of age, and there is no treatment available to stop the progression of the disease or reverse the bodily damage. Vaccination is the only means to prevent it.

“Working together we can, and must, make sure that each child is immunized and thus protected from polio,” said Deputy Regional Director of the USAID Mission for Central Asia Erin E. McKee about this initiative.

USAID is channeling its funds through grants to WHO and UNICEF, which work with the ministries of health to plan, conduct, and monitor national vaccination campaigns for children in all five countries. In addition to emergency response to the polio outbreak, USAID has also programed funds to help the five countries create effective routine immunization and surveillance systems to prevent future reemergence of polio.

Under the U.S. Government’s Global Health Initiative, USAID support for polio immunization is one of the many assistance projects the American people support in Central Asia, but the agency’s assistance is also directed towards development of the economic and agricultural sectors, education and health care systems, and democratic initiatives.