Polio resurging in Africa, says Red Cross

April 8th, 2009 - 4:34 pm ICT by IANS  

Geneva, April 8 (DPA) The International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC) warned Wednesday that polio is spreading again in 14 countries across Africa, including in areas where the disease had once been eradicated.
“We have clear indications that polio is spreading again, including in countries such as Uganda, which had been polio-free for more than a decade,” said Tammam Aloudat, an IFRC expert on emergencies.

The IFRC comprises all national Red Cross and Red Crescent societies.

An outbreak previously restricted to southern Sudan and western Ethiopia had recently spread to Kenya, Uganda and northern Sudan, the IFRC reported.

The group noted that, in the past, polio originating from eastern Africa had spread, probably owing to the heavily used sea ports there, to Gulf states and countries as far away as Indonesia.

The outbreak had also moved to the Democratic Republic of Congo and neighbouring countries.

Polio today is considered endemic only in Afghanistan, India, Nigeria and Pakistan.

The IFRC said that outbreaks in the previously polio-free countries were “a sad reminder that the fight against polio is not over yet”.

The organisation said it needed some $2 million to respond to the viral outbreak.

In February, UN agencies and other groups started a polio vaccine campaign to immunise 53 million children in eight West African countries, including Nigeria, over the course of several weeks.

The large campaign was in response to a polio outbreak last year, which spread from northern Nigeria to nearby countries.

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