United Nations peacekeepers airlifted doctors and vaccines to remote and inaccessible regions of Côte d’Ivoire today as the Government opened its latest campaign to immunize over 6 million children against polio.
The four-day campaign aims reach at least 95 per cent of the nearly 6,480,000 aged between a month and five years. The strategy recommended by the UN World Health Organization (WHO) requires going from door to door and marking the children vaccinated and the houses visited.
As in the West African country’s previous immunizations – this is the seventh – the UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) offered logistical support, transporting doctors and supplies by air and land to those areas hardest to reach.
Polio, contracted through contaminated food, water and faeces, was almost eradicated in Côte d’Ivoire until a case was confirmed in December 2008 in Adiaké in the country’s east. Since then there have been 26 other cases of the disease, which attacks the nervous system and mainly affects children under five.
One in 200 infections leads to irreversible paralysis, usually in the legs, and among those paralyzed, five to 10 per cent die when their respiratory muscles become immobilized.
UNOCI has been stationed in Côte d’Ivoire since 2004 to help ensure a ceasefire and pave the way for permanent peace and democratic elections after civil war in 2002 split the country into a Government-ruled south and a rebel-controlled north. Reauthorized repeatedly since then, most recently until 31 January 2010, it currently comprises nearly 8,400 uniformed personnel, as well as 407 international civilian staff.