Ghana Risks Polio Outbreak

Susan Ngongi immunising a child during a demonstration

Children  are at risk of contracting the polio viral disease despite its eradication in the country six years ago, Dr George Bonsu, Programme Manager of Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI), has announced.

He said since 2008, the country has been declared polio-free. However, its children are still at risk of contracting the highly infectious disease as a result of prevailing situation within the sub-region.

According to him, the current circulation of the polio virus in countries like Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea and Cameroon puts all children at risk.

‘Polio will continue to threaten children everywhere as long as it exists somewhere,’

Dr Bonsu said these at the launch of the National Immunisation Days Against Polio Campaign. Polio Campaign

In view of the threat the disease pose to the well-being of children in the country, the Ghana Health Service (GHS) together with development partners have rolled out activities for the campaign.

The campaign themed: ‘Kick Polio Out of Ghana; Vaccinate Your Child’, would be undertaken in two rounds across every district, town and village of the country by trained volunteers.

The first round of vaccination is expected to begin on September 18-20, 2014, while the second round would be from October 30 to November 1, 2014.

Dr Bonsu further explained that the campaign is to help maintain the gains made by the country in polio eradication which is also part of the global call to end polio worldwide. ‘Ensure that all children less than five years are vaccinated during the National Immunisation Days and the two doses of polio vaccine during the NID do not replace routine immunisation,’ he said.

Since the polio eradication activities started in 1996, the country has conducted 47 successful vaccination campaigns doses of polio vaccines have been administered to children less than five years.

Following the four strategies recommended by the World Health Organisation, the campaign is to maintain the highest routine immunisation (RI) coverage with three doses of oral polio vaccine (OPV) infants less than one year.

Global Outlook
Before the launch of the polio eradication initiative, the viral disease had been endemic in 125 countries and paralysed about 1000 children per day.

The incidence over the years decreased to more than 99 per cent through immunisation which has so far reached about 2.5 billion children and preventing over 5 million disabilities worldwide. However, cases of wild polio virus are beginning to crop up in parts of the world with Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria

recording 149 cases.
Other countries like Somalia, Equatorial Guinea, Iraq, Cameroon, Syria, Ethiopia and Kenya have all recorded cases of the viral disease this year.

Ms Susan Ngongi, UNICEF country representative, speaking on behalf of development partners commended the country’s health authority for the gains chalked in eradicating polio in the country.

She said the country still needs to work hard to push polio out of the continent. ‘Continue to promote routine immunisation and I urge all parents to ensure children less than two years get all the immunisation vaccines,’ she advised.

Dr Afisa Zakariah, Director of Policy, Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation (PPME) at the Ministry of Health, said the programme would be synchronised in th West African sub-region as a means of curtailing further spread in the continent.

She made an appeal to religious, traditional and local authorities to help in the education of the public on polio eradication through vaccination.

By Jamila Akweley Okertchiri 

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