Date Published: 16 December 2011
Saudi Arabia supports polio eradication in Niger
The United Nations' children's organisation UNICEF (United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund) has just announced that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has generously contributed US$1,588,000 to UNICEF Niger to support polio eradication. The funds will purchase Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV) and will allow the Government of Niger and its partners to immunize up to 3.77 million children.
" The generous funding of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will be instrumental to ensure a steady supply of OPV for immunization campaigns in Niger," said Guido Cornale, UNICEF Representative in Niger.
" This will allow the Government of Niger, with the support of the World Health Organization, UNICEF and other partners to reinforce immunization activities at a particularly critical time."
"We need to intensify efforts now to free Niger from polio," he added.
Despite the major progress made in reducing the number of cases of polio in Niger in 2010, the country remains at high risk due to ongoing transmission in neighbouring countries, especially Nigeria and Chad. A new case of wild poliovirus has just been confirmed bringing the total number of wild poliovirus cases in 2011 to 3. There were two cases in 2010, compared to 15 in 2009.
Niger is one of the countries in the 'wild poliovirus importation belt' – a band of countries stretching from West Africa to Central Africa and the Horn of Africa that are recurrently re-infected with polio virus. According to UNICEF it is therefore critical that nationwide synchronized vaccination campaigns are conducted in these countries in order to rapidly control outbreaks.
The Government of Niger and its partners are striving to ensure a rapid and coordinated response to potential new outbreaks and to make sure that they reach every last child, which can be a challenge in a country with a number of remote and insecure areas, and with a large number of migrants and nomadic groups. In order to increase the quality of vaccination activities, communication and social mobilization are implemented in close collaboration with communities, village chiefs and religious leaders.
The grant of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to Niger is part of a total contribution of US$10 million to UNICEF to purchase OPV for seven countries in 2011 – Benin, Cote d'Ivoire, Mali, Niger, Somalia, the Republic of Sudan and Yemen – to support the immunization of up to 33 million under-5 children across the Middle East, the Horn of Africa and West Africa.
The Global Polio Eradication Initiative is spearheaded by national governments and WHO, UNICEF, Rotary International, US Centers for Disease Control & Prevention and as well as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the UN Foundation.