- A total of 12 confirmed cases of polio have turned up in less than a year in Côte d'Ivoire, one of the West African countries where the disease was thought to have been eradicated. Almost all cases have been registered in the rebel-held northern part of the country, where most health institutions have ceased functioning.
According to the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), "the twelfth confirmed case of polio in Côte d’Ivoire in less than a year marks a drastic increase" from zero the year before. The number of confirmed cases has risen from 8 to 12 cases in four months, the UN agency informed today.
The latest cases have all been confirmed in the northern zone of the country, where medical services have been largely cut off since the country plunged into conflict two years ago. The northern zone is controlled by the Forces Nouvelles rebels and most state institutions here have ceased functioning.
The UN's Children Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) have carried out four national immunisation campaigns in Côte d'Ivoire in 2004, the latest being between the 8-11 October. The two agencies are now appealing to international donors for funds to carry out another two rounds of polio and measles vaccinations before the end of the year.
To date, humanitarian agencies have received just 6 percent of the US$ 14.3 million they have requested to carry out emergency health programmes in the country, according to OCHA. In terms of overall percentages, "Côte d'Ivoire has received less than any other" country where anti-polio campaigns are held, according to OCHA. Only 16.7 percent of the US$ 61 million required for emergency programmes in 2004 has been received.
Côte d'Ivoire's polio outbreak was "a reflection of the generally precarious state of the health sector" in the northern and western part of the country, the zones most affected by the crisis, OCHA said. Ivorian health staff are yet to be redeployed - in some cases they have been absent since the crisis began two years ago - and as the various state structures responsible for provision of medicines and other supplies are not in place.
Currently, local populations in rebel-held areas rely entirely upon the many humanitarian organisations working within this domain, which are running hospitals, health centres, and mobile health clinics in these areas.
UNICEF continues to reinforce the capacities of the health sector and train health staff on the management of medicines as part of their programme to improve health care and ensure that children are vaccinated properly. So far UNICEF has trained 36 administrative staff, 22 doctors, 241 nurses and 439 health care assistants.
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