10,000 health workers stop polio in Somalia

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Geneva (Switzerland), Mar.26 : Somalia is again polio-free, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) announced today, calling it a 'historic achievement' in public health.

Somalia has not reported a case since March 25, 2007, a major landmark in the intensified eradication effort launched last year to wipe out the disease in the remaining few strongholds.

Against a backdrop of widespread conflict, large population movements and a dearth of functioning government infrastructure, transmission of poliovirus in the country has been successfully stopped.

This landmark victory is a result of the efforts of more than 10,000 Somali volunteers and health workers who repeatedly vaccinated more than 1.8 million children under the age of five by visiting every household in every settlement multiple times, across a country ranked one of the most dangerous places on earth.

The use of innovative approaches tailored to conflict areas was pivotal in stopping polio in the country.

These included increased community involvement and the effective use of monovalent vaccines to immunize children in insecure areas with several doses, within a short period of time.

"This truly historic achievement shows that polio can be eradicated everywhere, even in the most challenging and difficult settings," said Dr Hussein A Gezairy, Regional Director for the World Health Organization's Office for the Eastern Mediterranean.

Polio, which can cause lifelong paralysis, has been stopped nearly everywhere in the world following a 20-year concerted international effort. nly four polio-endemic countries remain - Afghanistan, India, Nigeria and Pakistan - and the eradication of polio globally now depends primarily on stopping the disease in these countries.

Consistent financial commitment continues to be crucial to completing polio eradication. The global effort currently faces a shortage of 525 million American dollars for 2008-2009, funding urgently needed to fight the disease in the remaining endemic areas and protect children in high-risk polio-free areas.

ANI

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