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Indonesia polio cases increase as volunteers begin training for new vaccination campaign – UN

Indonesia polio cases increase as volunteers begin training for new vaccination campaign – UN

The crippling effects of polio
Hit by a re-emergence of polio cases after a decade of having none, Indonesia today ended the first phase of an emergency vaccination campaign in the worst-hit area around Jakarta, the capital, and, together with United Nations agencies, prepared for a second, larger campaign at the end of the month.

A UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) spokesperson said Indonesia now had five confirmed cases, up from two earlier in the week, and another nine suspected cases were being investigated.

The second phase of the vaccination campaign, starting on 31 May and supported by UNICEF, the UN World Health Organization (WHO), the United States Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, and the business association Rotary International will help the Indonesian Ministry of Health with a $4 million campaign to cover 5.2 million children in Jakarta and the rest of western Java.

Australia said it would contribute $779,000 to the campaign.

To get the second phase underway, UNICEF said, 40,000 volunteers would be trained to go house to house throughout West Java province to register children and then vaccinate them. Meanwhile, in face-to-face mobilization, campaigners would advise people of the reasons why the children urgently needed to be vaccinated.

The Government has said vaccination coverage against polio is around 90 per cent generally, but is lower in pockets. WHO and UNICEF estimate, however, that Indonesia's routine immunization coverage against childhood diseases, including polio, is about 70 per cent.

Despite the world's largest known public health offensive against polio, the number of cases worldwide rose to 1,267 last year from 784 in 2003, with some countries being re-infected by a wild poliovirus travelling from Nigeria through the Middle East.

During a stand-off over the quality of the inoculation, authorities in several northern Nigerian states suspended the vaccination of children against polio in mid-2003. Their leaders cited the unauthorized use in the area of a Western experimental drug to combat a meningitis outbreak. Eleven children who took the drug died.

WHO subsequently put that drug on its alert list, citing the negative results of studies done in Europe and the United States.

According to UN Special Adviser on Africa Ibrahim Gambari, northern Nigeria agreed to resume polio inoculations using a vaccine made in Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim nation. The paralytic disease was already spreading, however.