Thursday, May 28, 2009

WHO makes progress vaccinating more children against polio in Nigeria

From The Guardian in the UK:

Although Nigeria still has over half of the global number for new polio cases so far this year, according to the United Nations, the world body has stated that there is progress in the effort of the international community to reach and vaccinate more Nigerian children in the northern states of the country.

A UN statement based on a World Health Organisation (WHO) report issued over the weekend said that mass vaccination campaigns are reaching more children than ever in polio-prone states of northern Nigeria.

Nigeria is among the four countries, along with Afghanistan, India and Pakistan, where the disease is still endemic, but the UN agency is now praising state governors from northern Nigeria whose involvement in the immunisation campaigns is getting more. The UN Special Envoy, Ibrahim Gambari, was also dispatched to states in northern Nigeria a few years ago and he mobilised northern leaders and people to actively participate in the immunisation campaigns of UN agencies which had been met with resistance in some northern states even by political leaders at that time.

Specifically, WHO stated that Kano State recorded the most progress "where in ongoing tests this year, evaluators have found 12 per cent of children who had never been immunised, compared to 50 per cent in 2008."

A UN statement added that "the number of children in Nigeria who have never been immunised against the disease - which is contracted through contaminated food, water and faeces and mainly affects children under five - has decreased since last year to 8 per cent from 16 per cent."

According to WHO's latest figures," 243 people in Nigeria had been diagnosed with polio from the start of 2009 to 12 May, up from 167 confirmed cases during the same period in 2008. Nearly 800 people were infected with polio in Nigeria last year."

Altogether this year, 417 polio cases have been reported globally so far, according to the WHO.

Earlier this year in February, another UN agency, United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) announced that some 53 million children under the age of five, including every girl and boy in Nigeria, have been targeted by a mass polio immunisation campaign across West Africa.

Under that mass campaign, UNICEF said a door-to-door polio eradication drive is planned to sweep through eight countries: Benin, Burkina Faso, C™te d'Ivoire, Ghana, Mali, Niger, Togo, and Nigeria, aiming to reach every child even in the remotest of areas and employing 162,000 trained immunisers.

Indeed, a good number of the immunisers worked to stop last year's polio outbreak which hit northern Nigeria and spread to six countries in West Africa after the wild polio virus had already re-infected Niger in 2007, as well as Chad and Cameroun in Central Africa.

The total cost of the campaign was put at $29 million for the seven countries, with an additional $38 million for Nigeria, including the cost of the vaccine, operational costs, social mobilisation and surveillance.

The campaign had a working coalition of the health ministries of all the countries, as well as support from UNICEF, the World Health Organisation and Rotary International, among others, representing what is now known in the international community as an integral part of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative.

Polio is a highly infectious and incurable viral disease contracted through contaminated food, water and faeces. It mainly affects children under five. One in 200 infections leads to irreversible paralysis, usually in the legs, and among those paralysed, five to 10 per cent die when their respiratory muscles become immobilised.