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UNICEF and partners launch emergency funding appeal for polio outbreak in Congo


$23.5 million urgently needed to counter deadly outbreak

NEW YORK, - UNICEF, Rotary International and the World Health Organization (WHO) have launched an emergency appeal for $23.5 million in funding in response to the explosive polio outbreak in the Republic of Congo. Stopping the outbreak is a top international public health priority due to its high fatality rate and the high risk of further national and international spread.

As of 16 November, 324 cases of acute flaccid paralysis (AFP) and 146 deaths have been reported from the site of the outbreak centred in Pointe Noire. Five cases have been confirmed to have been caused by wild poliovirus type 1 and laboratory testing continues. Initial data indicates the majority of the reported cases and deaths involve young adults aged 15-29 years. Nearly all cases have been reported from the port city of Pointe Noire, with cases also reported from Niari, Bouenza, Brazzaville, and Kouilou. New cases continue to be reported.

Genetic sequencing has determined that the polio cases are caused by a poliovirus most closely related to that circulating in neighbouring Angola. Congo had recorded its last case of indigenous polio in 2000.

Three elements are central to quickly stopping this outbreak, per the World Health Assembly resolution of 2006: immediate, mass oral polio vaccine (OPV) campaigns with the appropriate type-specific vaccine (a minimum of three such campaigns, and based on other, similar outbreaks, up to eight campaigns, two to four weeks apart); mass OPV campaigns in bordering areas; heightened AFP surveillance in the country and neighbouring areas.

The response to the outbreak in Congo also includes all the new innovative emergency response approaches, including the new short interval additional doses (SIAD) strategy, which has increasingly proven to more rapidly stop outbreaks and prevent international spread. Finally, heightened surveillance must be sustained for more than 12 months to ensure that the outbreak has stopped and to guide further actions. However, conducting this type of response requires rapidly mobilizing emergency funds.

About the Global Polio Eradication Initiative
The Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) is spearheaded by national governments, WHO, Rotary International, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and UNICEF. Since the launch of the GPEI in 1988, the incidence of polio has been reduced by more than 99%. In 1988, more than 350,000 children were paralysed each year in more than 125 endemic countries. In 2010, 767 cases have been reported (as of 16 November 2010) in 19 countries. Only four countries remain endemic: India, Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan. The GPEI continues to face a funding gap of US$810 million to eradicate polio globally by 2013. For more information visit

UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.
For more information about UNICEF and its work visit:


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