The Ministry of Health is to embark on a polio immunisation programme, targeting about half a million Rwandese children, at the Rwanda-DR Congo border in order to prevent trans-border infections.
According to a United Nations press release, the immunisation which was supposed to kick off yesterday, is expected to take two days.
“This two-day campaign is in response to the detection of four cases of wild polio virus reported in eastern Congo earlier this year. Congo has already conducted a similar campaign along its border areas,” reads the UN statement.
The Ministry of Health is working in partnership with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to ensure that the population along the borderline is immunised.
The immunisation will be carried out in fourteen hospitals in nine districts that share the borderline with DR Congo, and the exercise aims at contributing to the global efforts of achieving a certified Polio-Free World by the end of 2008.
Meanwhile, the UN Resident Coordinator to Rwanda, Aurélien Agbénonci said, “We are confident that our support to such efforts will help to protect children from this debilitating disease and ensure that the Millennium Development Goal to reduce infant and child mortality in Rwanda, remains on track.”
He added that since the launch of the Polio Eradication Initiative in 1988, the number of polio cases reported annually has generally decreased by 99 percent.
Poliomyelitis, or polio, is a highly contagious viral infection that affects the nervous system.
Children can be infected with it when they eat or drink food and water contaminated with the virus or when they come into direct contact with an infected person’s faecal material or saliva.
Children under the age of five are especially vulnerable. Polio complications are irreversible but they can be easily prevented through immunisation.