Spread of polio in West Africa threatens global eradication drive UN

“This year, West Africans have put down their arms in Liberia and in Côte d’Ivoire, liberating millions of children from conflict,” UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy told a summit meeting of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in Accra, Ghana. “Now children urgently need the same vision and decisiveness from their leaders to stop polio, before the disease spreads out of control in the region,” Ms. Bellamy added. With Nigeria and Niger accounting for almost half the world’s total caseload, she presented a four-point plan to stop transmission in West Africa by the end of 2004 by eliminating the virus in the remaining reservoirs in those two countries, providing every child with the polio vaccine, strengthening national routine immunization, and developing rapid-response plans to manage imported viruses.Nigeria is at the root of the recent polio surge. With more cases than any other nation, Africa’s most populous country has been identified as the source of polio in Ghana, Burkina Faso, Chad, and Togo, costing the world over $20 million to respond to the problem this year alone. Much of this price could have been avoided by improving countries’ routine immunization services to protect children against polio and a whole host of other childhood diseases, Ms. Bellamy said. “Too many children in West Africa are absolutely defenceless against preventable childhood disease, creating the perfect conditions for epidemics,” she added. “With polio in Nigeria on the rise and spreading, West African nations have to make routine immunization the backbone of their national polio defence.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *