UNICEF has disclosed that immunisation drive is underway in the Lake Chad Basin area to vaccinate over 41 million children against polio in order to contain the recent outbreak of the disease in North-East Nigeria.
This was contained in a press release signed by Dounner Porter and sent to Nigerian Pilot on Tuesday.
UNICEF noted that populations fleeing conflict are on the move within the sub-region, raising concerns that the virus could spread across borders, adding that nearly 39,000 health workers are deployed across Nigeria and neghbouring Chad, Niger, Cameroon and the Central African Republic to deliver polio vaccines in areas at high-risk for the virus during five rounds of coordinated vaccination campaigns across five countries.
UNICEF is procuring the vaccines and engaging the public through mass media and grassroots mobilization, it said.
UNICEF Regional Director for West and Central Africa, Manuel Fontaine, said “the re-emergence of polio after two years with no recorded cases is a huge concern in an area that’s already in crisis. The scale of our response reflects the urgency: we must not allow polio to spread.
“Children are dying and more young lives will be lost unless we scale up our response. Through the polio vaccination drive, we can protect more children from the virus while also reaching children in need with treatment for malnutrition.”
UNICEF said polio vaccination teams in parts of Borno State are conducting simultaneous malnutrition screening to identify cases of severe acute malnutrition in children under five and refer malnourished children to treatment programmes, adding that findings from the first rounds of outreach screening have confirmed high rates of severe acute malnutrition.
The third round of the current polio campaign runs from 15-18 October with additional rounds scheduled in November and December. The immunisation campaign is being delivered by national governments, with support from UNICEF, the World Health Organization, Rotary International, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
The coordinated efforts between the polio vaccination campaigns and childhood nutrition screenings are part of UNICEF’s scaled-up response to the crisis. However, UNICEF’s response remains hampered by continued insecurity, especially in areas of Borno and by lack of funding. Of the $158 million needed for UNICEF’s emergency response in the region, only $50.4 million has so far been received.
Meanwhile, the ongoing conflict has now displaced 2.6 million people, devastated provision of healthcare and left more than four million people in the north-east facing crisis and emergency food security levels. In the three worst-hit Nigerian states, 400,000 children will suffer from severe acute malnutrition this year, UNICEF disclosed.