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UN agencies take polio vaccination campaigns to Somalia



The World Health Organisation (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) have called on Somalian citizens to vaccinate their children against polio.

The call came against the backdrop of a polio campaign currently on in Puntland and Somaliland to vaccinate more than 940 000 children under five years of age to stop the outbreak of the polio virus.

According to information retrieved from WHO’s website, the campaign targets all children in 12 districts in Somaliland and nine districts in Puntland.

The organisation noted that 15 children had been infected since the current polio outbreak began.

“No fewer than 945 480 children to be vaccinated, 3160 vaccinators knocking on doors, 677 team supervisors taking part, 1558 social mobilisers sharing messages on vaccination and children’s health

” 15 children have been infected with the polio viruses so far, since outbreaks began

“Somaliland, Puntland and other states in Somalia are currently experiencing outbreaks of II strains of poliovirus,” WHO revealed.

It noted that, though the viruses were not wild poilo, they could infect and paralyse children with low immunity.

It stated, “each strain requires a different vaccine, and children need several doses of each vaccine to boost immunity.

“Even though these viruses are not wild polio virus, both these circulating strains can infect and paralyse children with low immunity.

“It’s vital that parents ensure their children receive this vaccine because it builds immunity against a specific strain of polio virus circulating in the country.

Dr Mamunur Rahman Malik, WHO Representative for Somalia, reportedly urged parents and guardians to ensure that all children were available for the exercise.

He assured them of the safety of the vaccines.

” I call upon all care givers in the areas being covered in this campaign to please ensure that children are at home and accept the oral polio vaccine when it is offered.

“Oral polio vaccines are stored and administered safely, and can save children from paralysis and permanent disability.

“The only way to protect children from all polio viruses is to ensure that they receive multiple doses of polio vaccine, through campaigns and health facilities where possible,” he said

Werner Schultink, UNICEF Somalia Representative also urged care givers to ensure total compliance with the immunisation exercise.

“Caregivers need to ensure children receive this vaccine when it is available,” he advised.

WHO noted that Somalia’s polio programme had conducted 14 immunisation campaigns, including five nationwide campaigns, since December 2017 to stop further spread of the outbreaks.

But it complained that some children were still not vaccinated in spite of the efforts.

It stated, ” despite these efforts, not all Somalia’s children are being vaccinated, which has resulted in the polio viruses spreading across the country and spilling over to Ethiopia.

“To address this, polio teams from Somalia and Ethiopia conducted a joint planning workshop in Hargeisa last week, and are coordinating immunisation activities along their shared border.

“There is also concentration in hgh-risk areas in each country during this round in order to prevent cross-border transmission and spill over.

“Concurrent to the polio campaign, polio health workers have also been working to vaccinate more than 650 000 people aged one year and above against cholera in high-risk districts of Somalia.

The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the immunisation exercise is under auspices of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPI)

GPI is a public-private partnership led by national governments and spearheaded by WHO, Rotary International, the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and UNICEF .

Their aim is to work towards a future where no child would again be paralysed by polio.

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