More than 41 million children are expected to get vaccinations against polio as part of a major new health campaign by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in the Lake Chad basin, aimed at the recent outbreak of polio in north-east Nigeria.

Polio vaccine Image/Michael Washington, PhD, Health Scientist, NCEZID
Polio vaccine
Image/Michael Washington, PhD, Health Scientist, NCEZID

At the regular bi-weekly press briefing in Geneva today, UNICEF spokesperson Christophe Boulierac expressed major concerns regarding the re-emergence of polio in Nigeria after two years of no recorded cases, stating that populations fleeing conflict have been on the move within the subregion, which raises concerns that the virus could spread across borders.

As such, the agency has deployed 39,000 health workers across Nigeria and neighbouring Chad, Niger, Cameroon and the Central African Republic to deliver the oral polio vaccine in areas at high-risk for the virus.

The spokesperson also stated that in addition to the 30 million children that have already been reached with vaccine during the first two rounds, the next round of the campaign is aimed at vaccinating 41 million children in the Lake Chad basin.

In Borno state, a malnutrition screening was provided as part of the vaccination drive, he continued, also noting that UNICEF vaccination teams are conducting the screenings to identify cases of severe acute malnutrition in children under five before referring malnourished children to treatment programmes.

“The immunization campaign is being delivered by national Governments, with support from UNICEF, the World Health Organization, Rotary International, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation,” said Mr. Boulierac.