Posted by: africanpressorganization | 8 April 2009

Polio outbreak in 14 African countries prompts IFRC emergency appeal



Polio outbreak in 14 African countries prompts IFRC emergency appeal


GENEVA, Switzerland, April 8, 2009/African Press Organization (APO)/ — The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is launching an  emergency appeal for 2.4 million Swiss francs (US$ 2.1 million, EUR 1.6 million) to support Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies from 14 countries in Africa to respond to wild poliovirus outbreaks across the continent.  

“We have clear indications that polio is spreading again, including in countries such as Uganda which had been polio-free for more than a decade,” says Dr Tammam Aloudat, IFRC Senior Officer for Health in Emergencies. “We need to act now by reinforcing emergency vaccination campaigns before efforts made over the last 20 years to eradicate polio are severely set back by this series of outbreaks.”  

Polio cases surged again last year in Nigeria, re-infecting surrounding countries in West Africa. In addition, an outbreak of polio previously restricted to southern Sudan and western Ethiopia has recently spread to Kenya, Uganda and northern Sudan (to Khartoum and Port Sudan).  Confirmation of polio in Port Sudan is of particular concern, as it is from this area that – from 2004 to 2006 – polio spread to re-infect several countries, including Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Indonesia and Yemen, causing outbreaks that resulted in more than 1,200 cases and over US$150 million in international emergency outbreak response costs.  Persistent outbreaks of wild poliovirus are also ongoing in Angola, Chad and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, threatening surrounding countries.

Activities related to the appeal will support social mobilization for the massive immunization campaigns currently taking place or planned in all affected countries. Funds raised will reinforce the training and mobilization of thousands of volunteers throughout the continent to ensure that as many children as possible can be reached for vaccination. In April alone, more than 41 million children throughout Africa will be immunized against polio. In May, they will be joined by 42 million children from Nigeria – Africa’s most populous country and the only country in Africa never to have interrupted wild poliovirus transmission. The campaigns will be operated by the Ministries of Health, with support from the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, spearheaded by the World Health Organization (WHO), Rotary International, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and UNICEF. IFRC has been closely cooperating with WHO to evaluate the best ways to deal with this major health crisis and has been asked to support the campaigns.

“Over the last 20 years, major efforts have been made by the international community to eradicate polio. In 1988, more than 125 countries across the world were endemic to polio and more than 1,000 children per day were paralyzed as a result of the disease. And while today, polio is endemic only in four countries  – Nigeria, India, Pakistan and Afghanistan – these outbreaks in the previously polio-free countries come as a sad reminder to the same international community that the fight against polio is not over yet,” says Kate Elder, IFRC Senior Health Officer in charge polio and measles.

There are 15 countries that have been affected by the outbreak; these are: Angola, Benin, Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Mali, Niger, Togo, Sudan and Uganda.  The emergency appeal is calling for funds to support all the outbreak countries except for Chad.


SOURCE : International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC)



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