Nepal can get rid of polio by 2008: WHO

Kathmandu, September 28:

Three vaccination campaigns scheduled for this year, supplementary immunisation campaigns and strict cross-border surveillance can help Nepal become a polio-free nation by 2008, Dr Julian Bilous, senior adviser, Polio Eradication and EPI Immunisation, Vaccines

and Biologicals of the World Health Organisation (WHO) told The Himalayan Times today.

While the first phase of the vaccination campaign will be carried out on October 14 and 15, the second phase will be carried out on November 18 and 19. The date for the third phase of the campaign has not been announced.

Nepal had remained polio-free from 2000 to 2004.

Bilous said Nepal is in a better condition compared to neighbouring countries as far as achieving the goal of getting rid of polio by the year 2008 is concerned.

Around 300 polio cases have been detected in India so far this year, WHO said, adding that most of the cases had been detected in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, the states bordering Nepal. While 13 cases have been detected in Bangladesh, two cases were detected in Nepal this year, bringing the total number of polio cases detected in the country since 2004 to four.

Owing to an open border, Nepal has been finding it difficult to check the transmission of polio. “As every child is at risk, the Nepal government and the WHO are pulling all strings to strengthen cross-border surveillance and make the campaign against polio a success,” said Dr Bilous.

The WHO is monitoring whether the government can supply polio vaccines to all the districts and VDCs within the stipulated time, Dr Bilous said.

“Routine immunisation alone is not enough. Supplementary immunisation days should be fixed and mop-up programmes launched in high-risk areas,” said Dr Bilous.

As earlier, two doses of polio vaccine will be administered to each child under five years of age at polio booths on the first day. Health workers will also organise a house-to-house vaccination campaign so as to ensure that no child is left out.

Dr Shyam Raj Upreti, the chief of the Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI) under the CHD, said community health workers, mothers, child health workers and volunteers have been given training for conducting the campaign scheduled for October 14 and 15. “The free movement of people and large number of polio cases in UP has made it difficult for Nepal to eradicate polio,” said Dr Upreti.

The CHD has rescheduled the date for the polio vaccination in order to ensure a 90 per cent coverage. It had scheduled the first phase of the vaccination campaign for September 1 and 2, but deferred the campaign, fearing that 90 per cent coverage of children may not be achieved owing to floods and landslides.

Following the detection of two polio cases in Terai districts bordering India, the government had

administered polio

drops to 15 high-risk districts in January.