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Kenya starts polio vaccine in 12 districts

Thursday August 6 2009

By SAMMY CHEBOI

The Kenya Government has announced the start of two special rounds of polio vaccination targeting twelve districts.

The country has recently recorded an alarming upsurge in the paralysis disease, with 17 cases already confirmed in Turkana districts since the beginning of this year.

“One case of polio is one too many. Here we are talking of seventeen cases, and we want to reach each and every child during this campaign,” Mrs Mugo said.

Launching the health campaign on Thursday at Silver Springs Hotel in Nairobi, Public Health and Sanitation minister Beth Mugo expressed concern that insecurity, cultural barriers and lack of accessibility to villages in the semi-arid and arid districts was rolling back the war against poliomyelitis.

“Insecurity has always stood on the way of health workers going to every village and manyatta. I appeal to leaders from the region to work closely with us in this campaign,” she said.

The latest campaign comes in the wake of three other synchronised immunisations carried out in Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia and Sudan during March, April and May this year.

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The previous campaigns registered a 90 per cent success rate, but the minister said every effort would be made to vaccinate all children under the age of five in the twelve districts within Baringo, Turkana, Samburu, East Baringo and West Pokot.

The exercise, to be conducted between 8-12 and 15- 19  this month, will be carried out at a time statistics show a sharp drop in routine polio immunisation of children aged five years and below in Kenya and neighbouring countries.

Director of Public Health and Sanitation Dr Shanaz Sharif admitted that routine immunisation levels in Turkana stand at lows of 40 per cent against the World Health Organisation accepted level of 80 per cent.

Kenya has not registered any case of polio since 1984 until this year February when the first case was reported and confirmed in Loki area of Turkana North. Sixteen other cases were identified later.

Mrs Mugo said the exercise, which targets a total of 344,661 children, would cost slightly over Sh40 million.

Dr David Okello, WHO country representative, said that 730 polio cases had been reported globally this year alone. He added that Nigeria remains an endemic polio case in the world alongside Pakistan and two others.