By Wezi Tjaronda WINDHOEK With the arrival of 2.5 million doses of polio vaccine yesterday, Minister of Health and Social Services Dr Richard Kamwi called on every one living within the borders of the country to visit the immunisation sites from June 21-23. The vaccines, which were ordered a day after the announcement of the outbreak, have together with their transportation to Namibia cost the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) N$2.1 million or US$300 000. Since the outbreak of the Polio Wild Type 1 Virus last month, cumulative cases reported to the ministry have now reached 53, of which 10 have died. The ministry has also started training regional directors and primary health care supervisors from all 13 regions for the mass vaccinations campaigns. The trainees will then train their staff after their return to the regions. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has also provided technical support with a technical expert team, which will provide support to the national rollout of the vaccination campaign. The team includes two members from the Centre for Disease Control supported by the United States government. Kamwi, who received the vaccines of behalf of the government, said that to disrupt the transmission chain of the poliovirus, the ministry had decided to conduct a mass polio vaccination for the entire nation. Although victims of the virus are normally children, the majority who are affected in Namibia are adults above the age of 16 years. This, according to Shangula, is because the country has effectively conducted National Immunisation Days since it entered the Expanded Programme on Immunisation after independence. Kamwi underscored the seriousness of the outbreak saying; “It causes permanent paralysis and other forms of physical disability in many of its victims. Polio knows no boundaries or status. Consequently, even one confirmed case of polio paralysis is considered an outbreak.” Without global eradication, polio can always regain a foothold and every country, even those declared polio-free must immunize because as long as polio is present anywhere, it is a threat everywhere, added Kamwi. Unicef’s Representative to Namibia Khin Sandi Lwin said although the vaccines are here, the biggest challenge remains reaching each and every household. But with everybody’s co-operation – like civil organisations and development partners, the private sector, the media, churches and non-government organizations, Sandi Lwin said; “We are confident that the challenge can be met by the Ministry of Health and Social Services. Namibia is not alone in this – were in this together.” To be able to respond to the outbreak in a speedy manner, Unicef used resources from its regular programmes, especially HIV/ADS campaigns. It al-so obtained funds from UNICEF headquarters to the tune of N$6 million.
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