Ukraine authorities urged to launch polio campaign

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Significant vaccination gaps exist in Ukraine and 1.8 children are at risk from the disease, World Health Organization and UNICEF warn. Photo: UNICEF/Tom Pietrasik

Around 1.8 million children in Ukraine are at risk of a polio outbreak unless a national vaccination campaign gets under way immediately, UN agencies warned Friday.

The appeal, from UN Children's Agency UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO) comes six weeks after two children were diagnosed with the disease, which causes paralysis.

Neither child was protected against polio and UN aid workers have highlighted what they’ve called "serious vaccination gaps" that predate the current conflict in the east of Ukraine.

Daniel Johnson has more.

A full-scale polio immunisation programme is now needed in Ukraine if nearly two million children are to be protected from the disease, according to UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO).

The UN agencies' joint declaration follows confirmation by Ukraine's Ministry of Health on 1 September that a 10-month-old infant and a child of four were infected in the south-west of the country.

WHO's Oliver Rosenbaum said that everything is now in place for the national campaign to begin, before appealing to the Ukrainian authorities to play their part.

"The longer this virus is allowed to circulate, the higher the risk is that you are going to see more children paralysed by this disease…We're engaging with the government to take the ownership they need to fully implement the outbreak response and fully launch it."

The risk of the outbreak spreading is high because of "significant vaccination gaps" that have developed in the last seven years, predating the current conflict in the east.

In total, 1.7 million children need to receive three doses of the vaccination if it's to be effective.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations, Geneva

Duration: 1'05"


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