CAPE TOWN, South Africa (AP) — A campaign to vaccinate more than 9 million children against polio was launched this week in four countries in southern and eastern Africa after an outbreak was confirmed in Malawi.
The urgent vaccination campaign has started in Malawi where drops of vaccine are being placed in the mouths of children across the country, including in the capital, Lilongwe, and the country’s largest city, Blantyre.
The vaccination campaign will be expanded on Thursday to include neighboring countries Mozambique, Tanzania and Zambia, according to UNICEF, which is working with governments and other partners.
Three more rounds of vaccinations will follow in the coming months with the aim of reaching more than 20 million children.
“This is the first case of wild polio detected in Africa in over five years and UNICEF is working closely with governments and partners to do everything possible to stop the virus in its tracks,” said Mohamed. Mr. Fall, UNICEF Regional Director for the East. and southern Africa.
“Polio spreads quickly and can kill or cause permanent paralysis,” he said.
UNICEF, the World Health Organization and other partners in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative are supporting governments in the vaccination campaign after it was confirmed in February that a girl from three-year-old was paralyzed by wild poliovirus in Malawi’s capital, Lilongwe.
People most often contract poliomyelitis when they drink water contaminated with the feces of someone who has the virus. Children under five and those living in areas with poor sanitation are most at risk.
“A regional response is vital because polio is extremely contagious and can spread easily when people cross borders,” said Mohamed M. Fall.
“There is no cure for poliomyelitis, but the vaccine protects children for life. We are working with the World Health Organization and other partners to make sure parents, as well as community and religious leaders, know how important it is for every child to get their vaccine.
UNICEF has purchased more than 36 million doses of polio vaccine for the first two rounds of childhood immunizations in Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania and Zambia.
In Malawi, UNICEF is installing 270 new vaccine refrigerators, repairing other refrigerators and distributing 800 remote temperature monitors, vaccine carriers and cold boxes. In partnership with the World Health Organization, UNICEF trained 13,500 health workers and volunteers, 34 district health promoters and 50 religious leaders.
In Mozambique, UNICEF purchased 2,500 vaccine carriers and delivered 100 cold boxes and is assisting in the rapid delivery of vaccines from national warehouses to provincial warehouses. UNICEF is also supporting the training of 33,000 supervisors and health workers on vaccine management and social and behavior change, as well as the training of journalists, the distribution of communication materials and the broadcast of radio and TV spots to support the campaign against poliomyelitis.
In Tanzania, UNICEF has trained more than 2,000 health workers, 5,128 social mobilizers and 538 town criers, and facilitated the purchase of 3,000 vaccine carriers and 360 cold boxes, which are expected to be delivered in April 2022 for use. used in the next series of campaigns.
In Zambia, more than 200 trainers mentor health workers at provincial and district levels, with support from UNICEF and partners. District officials have been trained in polio surveillance, in partnership with the World Health Organization.