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Last Updated: Saturday, 2 October, 2004, 19:00 GMT 20:00 UK
Nigeria spearheads polio campaign
Taking the vaccine in Lagos
Kano officials had been unhappy with the vaccine
Nigeria has launched fresh efforts to stamp out polio as part of a campaign that aims to immunise more than 80 million children in 23 African states.

President Olusegun Obasanjo said it was the responsibility of African nations to build a polio-free continent.

He was speaking in the northern state of Kano where he administered oral vaccine drops to young children.

Earlier opposition to the vaccine in Kano is blamed for the resurgence and spread of polio in the region.

The campaign which begins in earnest in a week's time will be the biggest cross-border public health drive ever, the UN says.

It hopes the campaign will help salvage the World Health Organization's goal of eradicating the disease by 2005.

Children at risk

"Let us pride ourselves on a polio-free Africa and Nigeria," Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo told a packed stadium in Kano.

He then tipped drops of vaccine into the mouth of the one-year-old daughter of the Kano state governor.

After a ban in Kano, immunisation efforts resumed there in July but only reached 60% of children.

Islamic clerics in Nigeria's Kano region had said the vaccines were part of a Western plot to make Muslim women infertile - something that was strongly denied by the WHO.

The virus - which mainly strikes children under the age of five - has spread to 12 polio-free countries over the past 18 months.

"The ban on immunisation in Kano was a key factor in allowing the virus to spread back into polio-free parts of Africa," Kent Page, a spokesman for UN children's fund Unicef in West and Central Africa, told Reuters.

Polio, which is caused by a virus that invades the nervous system through contaminated drinking water, can result in paralysis or death.

The first wave of vaccinations will begin later this month, with a second wave in November and further rounds throughout 2005, officials say.

WHO moves to calm polio fears
20 Jan 04  |  Africa
Polio cases on the increase
25 Apr 03  |  Health
WHO adopts new polio strategy
13 May 03  |  Health

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