The World Health Organisation (WHO) and the children’s agency UNICEF have called on caregivers and parents in south-central Somalia to avail their children for polio vaccination during the newly launched campaign to curb the spread of the viral disease.
In a joint statement Monday, the two UN bodies said it was critical for children under the age of five to be vaccinated in order to contain the spread of polio which it said was spreading in the target regions.
“The only way to stop such outbreaks from vaccine-preventable diseases, including polio, is to vaccinate every child every time immunization services are offered, either through routine programmes or through such mass campaigns,” WHO country representative Manumur Malik said.
“We all have a moral responsibility to reach and boost the immunity of every last child in Somalia. Owing to access, security and health-seeking behaviour, we are missing a large number of children every year, who are not receiving these life-saving vaccines.”
According to WHO and UNICEF, a strain of poliovirus different from the wild poliovirus recently declared eradicated in Africa was in circulation in Somalia. The outbreak has paralyzed 19 children since late 2017.
UNICEF representative in Somalia Werner Schultink said it was necessary that immunisations take place especially during this period of COVID-19 pandemic. “These vaccination drives will help prevent further outbreaks and will protect children from deadly diseases so they can survive and thrive,” said Schultink.
The campaign launched Saturday runs until Wednesday and will be targeting 1.6 million children under the age of five.