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Agencies rush to vaccinate more than a million in refugee camps in Kenya

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
May 31st, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

An emergency team has been galvanized into action to vaccinate 424,000 people living in the world's largest refugee camp in Kenya after the discovery of polio this week. According to the United Nations, a four-year-old girl tested positive for polio in Kenya's Dadaab refugee camp near the Somali border earlier this month. At least four other cases have been diagnosed there since.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Polio is a highly contagious viral infection that paralyses children's arms and legs, as well as causing breathing problems, which can be fatal. The World Health Organization has pledged to eradicate polio globally by 2018.

The Dadaab outbreak follows a similar outbreak in Somalia, where a two-year-old girl living in the capital Mogadishu tested positive in April. It was Somalia's first case of polio since 2007.

The goal is to now vaccinate up to 1.25 million people in Kenya over the next three months, including residents in areas surrounding Dadaab and Nairobi, where refugees sometimes travel. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies say that polio was last detected in Kenya in 2011.

The World Health Organization started vaccinating 288,000 children under 16 living in Dadaab at the beginning of this week.

"It is expected that close to 100 percent of the target population will have been reached by the end of the day," the organization said in a statement, adding that it would start vaccinating adults in the camp in June.

Many people in south-central Somalia have not received the routine childhood vaccination against polio because of the war. The Somali government began an emergency campaign targeting children across the country this month.

Polio is endemic in just three countries: Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan. In 2012, there were 223 cases of polio worldwide.

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