More than nine million children will be vaccinated against the poliovirus in the first round of mass campaigns across four countries in eastern and southern Africa after an outbreak was confirmed in Malawi.
The vaccine rollout comes after it was confirmed last month that a 3-year-old girl was paralyzed by wild poliovirus in Malawi’s capital, Lilongwe.
“This is the first case of wild polio detected in Africa for more than five years and UNICEF is working closely with governments and partners to do everything possible to stop the virus in its tracks,” says Mohamed M. Fall, UNICEF Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa.
UNICEF, the World Health Organization (WHO) and other partners of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative are leading the campaign launched in Malawi on Sunday and will be followed on Thursday with campaigns starting in neighboring Mozambique, Tanzania and Zambia.
More rounds of vaccinations will follow in the coming months which will cover more than 20 million children, according to UNICEF.
People most commonly contract polio when they drink water that is contaminated with the faeces of someone who carries the virus. Children under the age of five and those living in areas with poor sanitation are most at risk.