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Chad Launches a National Immunization Campaign Against Polio

President Idriss Déby, UNICEF, WHO, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation today launched a new polio immunization campaign that aims to immunize the country’s 2.2 million children under the age of five against polio.

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N’DJAMENA, Chad -- President Idriss Déby, UNICEF, WHO, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation today launched a new polio immunization campaign that aims to immunize the country’s 2.2 million children under the age of five against polio.

The launch event was held at the Liberty Hospital in N’Djamena under the patronage of the Chief of State, His Excellency, President Idriss Déby ITNO, UNICEF, WHO, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The group called on all government departments and communities across the country to support this effort to protect Chad’s children from life-long paralysis.

Since the start of 2011, the Ministry for Public Health recorded 114 cases of wild poliovirus in Chad. The overwhelming majority of these cases – 111 – are type 1 while three cases were type 3. Overall, 13 regions have been affected with the last case of wild poliovirus recorded in the district of Abéché in the region of Ouaddaï, eastern Chad (August 10, 2011).

His Excellency, President Idriss Déby ITNO, declared: “On behalf of the people of Chad, and especially mothers and children, we thank Bill Gates for coming to Chad and for his generosity in putting his fortune to the service of children and humanity. Mr. Gates, you are a leader in the fight to eradicate polio worldwide,” he added before concluding his message with a call to action to Chad’s citizens: “By coming to Chad to launch this vaccination campaign, Mr. Gates calls on all of us – the government, large institutions, media, parents, leaders of different religions, traditional leaders, territorial administrations and defense and security – we should mobilize ourselves to eradicate polio.”

The polio epidemic in Chad has gone on for nearly two years and efforts to curb the spread of the virus have included four national vaccination days and three local vaccination days focusing on the areas hardest hit by the epidemic. Global experts have expressed concern about the spread of the virus in the country’s sub-region, as well as the high cost of emergency intervention campaigns.

Approximately 41 percent of polio cases in Africa were reported in Chad this year, increasing the likelihood of the country becoming a reservoir for the spread of the virus to neighboring countries. This immunization campaign offers a new opportunity for the country to curb the spread of polio and offer thousands of children a chance to live a life free from life-long paralysis.

“The aim of the WHO is to urgently support Chad in order to improve the quality of the monitoring and the activities stated in the Emergency Plan designed to stop the spread of the wild poliovirus in Chad. In October 2011, the WHO foresees a thorough review of the Emergency Plan to measure the results, the evolution of the epidemiologic situation and to consider extending the plan, which will probably be needed if we aim to stop the spread of polio in Chad in 2012,” said a representative of the WHO in Chad, Dr Saidou Pathé Barry.

The Chadian government has expressed political commitment to eliminate poliovirus and taken strong measures to address the epidemic in its Emergency Plan as well as through public-private partnership efforts.

Social mobilization has been reinforced and efforts have been focused on the implementation of campaigns and routine immunization to ensure each child receives a vaccine against polio and other avoidable diseases.

UNICEF and the WHO have reiterated their common engagement to support the Chadian government’s plan to stop polio in 2011. Tens of thousands of volunteers, health workers, parents, social militants and the community, religious and traditional leaders will go from door to door and from village to village throughout the country to vaccinate children under five.

“Universal coverage of the oral polio vaccine will enable Chad’s children to survive and thrive, because vaccination is an act of love. Vaccination and public mobilization efforts must be doubled to ensure the health system reaches the most disadvantaged and marginalized children who have never been immunized. These efforts are possible, and they represent a technical and moral imperative today. We believe that informing the public through mass communication and effective social mobilization initiatives can increase the confidence and respect to interrupt polio transmission in Chad,” declared Dr. Marzio Babille, representative of UNICEF in Chad.

Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, was onsite completing his first visit to the country. In addition to meeting His Excellency, President Idriss Déby ITNO, Gates also met with several ministers and members of the government and called for their renewed political support to the polio eradication programs in Chad. Gates also had the opportunity to visit the Central Storage of the Expanded Vaccination Program where vaccines are kept to gain further understanding of the challenges in delivering safe, effective vaccines across the country.

“I would like to congratulate His Excellency, President Idriss Déby ITNO and his government for their continued commitment to eliminating polio and giving children a healthy start to life through immunization,” said Gates. “Chad is on a path toward eliminating polio and we are committed to play a part in that journey.”

By reaching all children through vaccination, Chad will be in a better position to reach the Millennium Development Goals related to child health.

The President reiterated his engagement in this fight, recalling that he has instituted monthly meetings to discuss and monitor the situation with members of his government. All regional Governors are also obliged to organize such meetings and feed the information back to the central administration.

Chad will drive additional national immunization campaigns from 29 to 31 October and from 25 to 27 November, both continuing to target the country’s 2.2 million children under five.

UNICEF is operating in the field in more than 150 countries and territories worldwide to help children to survive and develop, from their tender age up to the end of the adolescent age. As the world’s leading supplier of vaccines to developing countries, UNICEF supports the health and nutrition of children, their access to water and sanitation facilities, quality basic education for all boys and girls and protection of children against violence, all forms of exploitation and AIDS. UNICEF is fully funded through voluntary contributions from individuals, enterprises, foundations and governments.

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