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Cross-border polio campaign in Chad aims to contain regional propagation from Cameroon

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Massaguet, CHAD, 26th May 2014 - The Chadian Ministry of Health, Social Action and National Solidarity (MSP-ASSN), in collaboration with partners UNICEF and WHO has conducted a large scale regional vaccination campaign against polio from the 23rd to the 25th of May.

Amid serious concerns of regional propagation of the poliovirus from neighbouring Cameroon, Chadian authorities and partners, who have campaigned rigorously against polio over the past two years, remain determined to keep the polio-free status of the country.

“The achievements made so far should not make us fall into complacency, on the contrary, we must focus all our strength and energy to increase vigilance in order to stop any eventual poliovirus re-circulation,” said Minister of Public Health, Dr Ngariera Rimadjita, during the launch event held on the 24th in Massaguet, in southwestern Chad.

Several countries in the region including Cameroon, Nigeria and Niger will be conducting coordinated campaigns with Chad, in order to maximize vaccination coverage, especially for cross-border populations who may otherwise miss vaccinations when crossing borders. For this campaign, 23 villages, ten points of entry and six assembly points have been identified in border areas to ensure the vaccination of all children aged under five against Polio.

"UNICEF is aware of the magnitude of the challenge and is committed to supporting the Government to improve indicators and increase vaccination coverage. We have come a long way since 2011, where polio was still rampant in Chad with 132 new confirmed cases. We must, at all cost, safeguard our recent hard-won gains in the battle against polio” stated UNICEF Chad Representative, Bruno Maes, who recognized the challenge and reiterated UNICEF´s commitment.

Cameroon, where polio has been undetected for the past three years until last October, is now in the midst of a full-blown polio outbreak. The country has been declared earlier this year at “High Risk” by WHO, for causing international spread of the illness.

While at this moment it is not possible to determine how much the violence-torn Central African Republic has been affected by the outbreak in Cameroon, many observers believe that the poliovirus might be currently in circulation, due to deteriorated sanitary conditions, the lack of active surveillance activities and the impossibility to conduct vaccination campaigns. The influx of Central African refugees and returnees to Chad adds another measure of concern in terms of keeping Chad polio-free.

Chad has already conducted two national polio vaccination campaigns this year in the months of March and April, reaching an estimated 2 million children under-five.

“Two years without polio in Chad marks a decisive victory over the wild poliovirus. However, this result should not dampen our enthusiasm to keep learning. Chad has the need to continue to implement the major axes of the vaccination program including surveillance, routine immunization and organization of mass campaigns,” recognized WHO Chad Representative, Dr. Jean -Marie Yaméogo.

Partners like WHO, UNICEF, ROTARY, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) will be supporting the Government to cover 13 border regions, including 27 health districts, and targeting more than 1.8 million children under five.

Last year´s rigorous campaigning, with eleven campaigns in total (including national, regional and mop-up campaigns), coupled with improved data collection, yielded a 92% vaccination coverage for polio.

This year, health authorities and partners aim to reach 95%, the coverage rate needed for keeping the poliovirus at bay on a national level.

The last confirmed case of Wild Poliovirus (WPV) dates back to June 2012, while the last reported case of Circulating Vaccine Derived Poliovirus (cVDPV) dates back to May 2013.

For more information, please contact:

Lalaina Fatratra Andriamasinoro, Chief of Strategic Communication
UNICEF Chad Country Office lfandriamasinoro@unicef.org

Nadim Boughanmi, Communication Specialist, Polio Unit
UNICEF Chad Country Office, nboughami@unicef.org

Naissem Jonas, Communication Officer
WHO Chad Country Office naissemj@who.int