Polio reemerging in Africa

The World Health Organisation (WHO) said earlier today that polio has reemerged in several countries in Africa. WHO Africa regional director Luis Gomes Sambo made the announcement at the beginning of a Zimbabwe conference regarding child immunisation.

“Several polio-free countries have suffered setback in polio eradication. The number of countries with polio outbreaks following wild poliovirus importations has increased from thirteen to nineteen in 2009,” Sambo commented.

He also added that “we need better management of the available resources for immunization, human resources, technologies and we need increased funding to improve the capacity of governments to purchase vaccines and we need also greater mobilization of people. We need to inform people that to bring their people to vaccination campaigns.”

The Zimbabwe conference takes place at a time when there has been a considerable decline of under-five mortality in the region. Sambo, however, said that sub-Saharan Africa accounted for 51% of all under-five deaths globally in 2008. At this rate, he noted, Africa cannot achieve the fourth UN Millennium Development Goal to reduce under-five mortality rate by two-thirds between 1990 and 2015.

The countries that have had increases in polio included Angola, Chad, and Democratic Republic of the Congo. The WHO attributed the rise mostly to lack of immunisations. The agency estimates that 75% of children on the continent receive vaccines, and has said it will try to raise the number to 85%.

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