GUINEA-MALI: Polio returns after five-year absence
[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United
Eradication Initiative says it still needs $50 mln for 2004
immunisation campaigns in 22 African countries
DAKAR, 24 Aug 2004 (IRIN) - Polio has reappeared in Guinea
and Mali five years after the crippling disease was eradicated in the two West
African countries and health experts said on Tuesday there was still a very real
threat of a major epidemic spreading across the African continent.
The Global Polio Eradication Initiative said it had confirmed one case of polio
in Guinea and two in Mali. It also said that three new cases had been recorded
in Sudan's troubled Darfur region, doubling the number of infections detected
"The ongoing polio outbreak which originated in northern Nigeria continues
to affect new countries, underscoring the threat of a major epidemic across west
and central Africa," the organisation said in a statement issued by its
headquarters in Geneva.
Polio, which can be easily prevented by immunising children at a young age,
causes limb paralysis and frequently leaves its victims consigned to a
The Eradication Initiative said on Tuesday it still needed another US$50 million
to conduct synchronised mass immunisation campaigns in 22 African countries in
October and November.
But even if donors stump up the cash, the persistence of conflict in several
countries may make it difficult for the planned vaccination drive to happen
achieve complete coverage.
"Civil unrest in Cote d'Ivoire and the Darfur region of the Sudan will make
it particularly challenging to reach every child this year," the polio
The Global Polio Eradication Initiative, which links governments, private
donors, relief agencies and the World Health Organisation (WHO) had hoped to
wipe out polio by 2005.
However, a 10-month ban on immunisation in Kano state in Northern Nigeria threw
a spanner in the works and led to the reappearance of the disease in several
other African countries.
Last September, Kano state stopped immunising children, citing fears raised by
Islamic fundamentalists that the polio vaccine had been deliberately
contaminated as part of a Western Christian plot to reduce Nigeria's Muslim
population by making children infertile and infecting them with HIV/AIDS and
Kano state lifted the ban earlier this month after coming under heavy pressure
from the Nigerian federal government and the international community. The
authorities said they had eventually found a safe vaccine made in Indonesia.
However, over the past year polio has spread throughout Nigeria. The country has
reported 476 cases of the viral disease so far this year -- more than three
quarters of the world total.
This upsurge of polio among Nigeria's 126 million population led the disease to
ripple back across the African continent..
The Eradication Initiative said that Guinea and Mali had brought to 12 the
number of previously polio-free countries that had been reinfected since 2003.