WHO, UNICEF join hands with local authorities for polio vaccine campaign in Somalia

Fifteen children have died in Somalia and the virus is spreading to the neighbouring state of Ethiopia.

States in Somalia are facing massive outbreaks of two strains of poliovirus. The health authorities in the country have started a polio vaccination drive for children under the age of five years. They will aim to vaccinate more than 9,40,000 children.

The campaign will run from 24-27 June with the help of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Funds (UNICEF). The drive will take place in 12 districts in Somaliland and nine districts in Puntland.

There have been 15 children who have been infected with the polioviruses. The two viruses need different vaccines and the children need several doses to boost their immunity. These viruses are not the same as the wild poliovirus but it can infect and paralyse children with low immunity.

A child is given a dose of polio vaccine at an immunisation health centre, in Maiduguri, Borno State, Nigeria, August 29, 2016. REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde SEARCH

Representational image. Image credit: REUTERS

Dr Mamunur Rahman Malik, WHO Representative for Somalia said "It’s vital that parents ensure their children receive this vaccine because it builds immunity against a specific strain of poliovirus circulating in the country. I call upon all caregivers in the areas being covered in this campaign to please ensure 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,"

Somalia has conducted 14 polio immunization campaigns since December 2017 but not all children are vaccinated and hence the outbreaks have not stopped. They have been spreading across the country and has even gone on to Ethiopia.

Werner Schultink, UNICEF Somalia Representative said, "Caregivers need to ensure children receive this vaccine when it is available.”

The campaign will use 3,160 vaccinators and 1,558 social mobilizers who will spread the message about vaccinations.

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