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UNICEF chief to witness polio immunization work in Angola, DR of Congo

UNICEF chief to witness polio immunization work in Angola, DR of Congo

The head of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) will travel this week to Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to witness polio immunization activities as part of a massive regional campaign, the agency said today.

Executive Director Carol Bellamy will join thousands of health workers and volunteers as they mobilize 16 million children in a vaccination campaign in four countries in central Africa - Angola, DRC, Congo-Brazzaville and Gabon.

Ms. Bellamy's visit from 8 to 13 August coincides with the beginning of the region's second round of immunization.

In the DRC, she will visit border areas to view first-hand cross border vaccination work in camps for displaced persons. In Angola, she will join the Minister of Justice to launch the Child Registration Campaign to promote birth registration.

According to UNICEF, the global campaign to eradicate polio is in its final stages. By 2005, the agency and its partners - including Rotary International, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United States Centers for Disease Control - plan to make polio the second disease ever eradicated, after smallpox in 1977.

Angola and DRC are two of the remaining countries affected by conflict where polio is still endemic. The eradication effort will only succeed once polio is eliminated from each and every country. Until then, millions of children run the risk of contracting the virus, UNICEF says.