116 million African children to get polio vaccines

In this April 13, 2014 file photo, an unidentified health official administers a polio vaccine to a child in Kawo Kano, Nigeria. (AP)
Updated 25 March 2017
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116 million African children to get polio vaccines

LAGOS: The World Health Organization said Friday 116 million children are to receive polio vaccines in 13 countries in west and central Africa as part of efforts to eradicate the disease on the continent.
“The synchronized vaccination campaign, one of the largest of its kind ever implemented in Africa, is part of urgent measures to permanently stop polio on the continent,” the WHO said.
The program will see all children under the age of five in 13 countries immunized from Saturday “in a coordinated effort to raise childhood immunity to polio,” it added.
The countries are Benin, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Ivory Coast, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria and Sierra Leone.
Once a worldwide scourge, polio is still endemic in three countries — Nigeria, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
This year, the WHO has recorded four cases of polio — two each in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Last year, there were 37 cases globally.
The four-day campaign in Africa by 190,000 vaccinators is part of the response to the discovery of three cases of polio in the insurgency-wracked state of Borno in northeast Nigeria last year.
Before then, the west African country had not reported a case of polio in two years and was on track to be certified free of the virus this year.
Rod Curtis, from the UN children’s fund UNICEF in Borno, told AFP another campaign would take place at the end of April in the countries around Lake Chad.
Lake Chad forms the border between Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon, which have all been affected by Boko Haram’s insurgency.
“It’s funded by international donors, local governments and the government of Japan who spent $33 million specifically to support this campaign,” he said.
Polio is a highly infectious viral disease which mainly affects young children and can result in permanent paralysis. There is no cure and it can only be prevented through immunization.
Matshidiso Moeti, WHO regional director for Africa, said South Africa’s former President Nelson Mandela launched a campaign 20 years ago to “Kick Polio Out of Africa.”
“At that time, every single country on the continent was endemic to polio, and every year, more than 75,000 children were paralyzed for life by this terrible disease,” said Moeti.
“Thanks to the dedication of governments, communities, parents and health workers, this disease is now beaten back to this final reservoir.”
UNICEF’s regional director for west and central Africa, Marie-Pierre Poirier, said she was hopeful polio could be wiped out with the help of African leaders.
“Polio eradication will be an unparalleled victory, which will not only save all future generations of children from the grip of a disease that is entirely preventable, but will show the world what Africa can do when it unites behind a common goal,” she said.


Mandela’s widow urges world: put egos aside and end violence

Graca Machel, member of the Elders speaks at the Nelson Mandela Peace Summit during the 73rd United Nations General Assembly in New York, US, September 24, 2018. (REUTERS)
Updated 57 min 15 sec ago
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Mandela’s widow urges world: put egos aside and end violence

  • Garces said Mandela “represents a light of hope for a world still torn apart by conflicts and suffering”

UNITED NATIONS: Nelson Mandela’s widow challenged world leaders celebrating his life on Monday to put their egos and partisan politics aside and honor his legacy by ending the “senseless violence” plaguing too much of the world.
“History will judge you should you stagnate too long in inaction,” Graca Machel told a UN “peace summit” commemorating the 100th anniversary of Mandela’s birth. “Humankind will hold you accountable should you allow suffering to continue on your watch.”
With peace a scarce commodity, Machel’s challenge was echoed by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and other leaders who acknowledged the world is far from achieving Mandela’s ideals which also include human rights and global cooperation.
“Today, with human rights under growing pressure around the world, we would be well served by reflecting on the example of this outstanding man,” Guterres said. “We need to face the forces that threaten us with the wisdom, courage and fortitude that Nelson Mandela embodied.”
The tributes to Mandela began with a rare UN honor — the unveiling of a $1.8 million statue of the South African anti-apartheid campaigner who became the world’s most famous political prisoner, played a key role in ending white-minority rule, and became president in the country’s first democratic election. The statue is a gift to the United Nations from South Africa.
Mandela’s arms are outstretched in the statue, as if to embrace people everywhere. But after the cover was pulled off, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, with help from Guterres, placed a small South African flag in his lapel.
The day-long summit, with nearly 160 scheduled speakers, set the stage for Tuesday’s opening of the General Assembly’s annual meeting of world leaders, where conflicts from Syria to South Sudan, rising unilateralism, and tackling a warming planet and growing inequality are among issues expected to be in the spotlight.
With a bang of the gavel by General Assembly President Maria Fernanda Espinosa Garces, the leaders on Monday adopted a political declaration resolving “to move beyond words” to promote peace and prevent, contain and end conflicts. “Dialogue is key, and courage is needed to take the first steps to build trust and gain momentum,” it said.
Garces said Mandela “represents a light of hope for a world still torn apart by conflicts and suffering.”
Like others, she warned of the rise of populism and unilateralism and its threat to the 193-member United Nations.
“Drifting away from multilateralism means jeopardizing the future of our species and our planet,” Garces said. “The world needs a social contract based on shared responsibility, and the only forum that we have to achieve this global compact is the United Nations.”
The appeal for collective action to tackle the world’s many conflicts, hotspots and challenges is being tested by the “America First” agenda of US President Donald Trump and populist governments in Italy, Hungary, Austria and elsewhere as well as Britain’s impending divorce from the European Union.
China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi warned that “unilateralism and protectionism are on the rise” and urged the international community to “stand united under the umbrella of multilateralism.”
The Trump administration and China have been engaged in a trade war in recent months, with the two sides imposing higher tariffs on imports from each other.
Wang said “the UN is the symbol of multilateralism” and “an important guardian of world peace.” During Mandela’s time, he said, it was the “strong moral pressure” of the UN and the international community “that accelerated the disintegration of apartheid.”
“The international community must stand united under the umbrella of multilateralism, uphold the central role of the UN in international affairs and provide more predictability and stability in this turbulent world,” Wang said.
Addressing the Mandela event, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani never mentioned the United States — which has accused Tehran of promoting international terrorism, a charge it vehemently denies.
But Rouhani appeared to be taking aim at Trump and his pledge to build a wall on the US-Mexican border when he said Mandela was a model for the “historical reality that great statesmen tend to build bridges instead of walls.”
Alluding to the Trump administration, Cuba’s President Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez said recent announcements about military expenditures are “alarming” and are pushing the world into a new arms race “to the detriment of the enormous resources that are needed to build a world of peace.”
South Africa’s Ramaphosa said his country’s “deepest hope” is that the summit, “in the name of one of our greatest exemplars of humanity, serves as a new dawn for the United Nations.”
“We hope we will rediscover the strength of will to save successive generations from war, and to overcome the hatred of our past and the narrow interests that blind us to the vision of a common future that is peaceful and prosperous,” he said. “We hope we will prove ourselves worthy as the bearers of the legacy of Nelson Mandela.”