Somalia to begin anti-polio drive this week

News and Press Release
Originally published
NAIROBI, June 15 (Reuters) - Volunteers in anarchic Somalia this week will launch a United Nations-backed polio immunization drive to prevent the disease from spreading to the country from nearby Ethiopia and Yemen. Both of those countries are the latest two of 16 previously polio-free west and central African nations where the paralysis causing disease has re-appeared.

"The outbreaks of polio in Ethiopia and Yemen, coupled with large population movements between Somalia and its neighbours have put Somali children at risk of polio," Dr. David Heymann, the U.N. World Health Organization's (WHO) polio eradication representative, said in a statement.

The outbreaks in Yemen and Ethiopia have already paralyzed 230 children and as many as 40,000 are infected, he said.

UNICEF, the U.N. children's agency, said Somalia needs $2 million from donors to pay for immunization activities for the rest of the year.

Beginning on Friday, thousands of volunteers, health workers and traditional leaders supported by the WHO and UNICEF will fan out throughout the country to begin giving the vaccine to all children under the age of five.

About one in four children in Somalia is routinely immunized against polio, the U.N. agencies said.

Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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