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Second phase of UN's anti-polio vaccinations in africa aims to cover 100 million children

New York, 11 AprilĀ 2005
Africa's second phase of inoculations against the polio virus started over the weekend and is designed to reach 100 million children across the continent before the high season of transmission of the paralytic disease from July to September, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) said.

The first of three phases in the UN-led immunization drive started at the end of February and reached 95 million children then, including youngsters in border territories, refugee camps and areas of conflict, the agency said.

The second phase began Saturday and will run through tomorrow, and $75 million would be needed by July to continue with the third phase this year, it said. Its major non-governmental organization (NGO) partner has been Rotary International.

Africa has 48 of the current 64 polio cases, or 75 per cent of the incidences reported worldwide, with 32 of them in Nigeria, and the disease has spread to 14 African countries, up from 3 countries in 2002, UNICEF said.

"We should pull out all stops to ensure that all missed children are reached," the Regional Director for Africa of the UN World Health Organization (WHO), Dr. Luis Sambo, said during a recent visit to the African Union (AU) headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. "The prize is closer now than ever before. Together with partners, we are working to maintain momentum until the disease is finally gone."

A 2000-2002 campaign stopped polio in all countries but Nigeria, Niger and Egypt. Since then Sudan, Ethiopia and Mali are among those which have been re-infected, while gaps in coverage have reached 20 per cent in some countries, UNICEF said.
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