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Last Updated: Wednesday, 21 April, 2004, 02:37 GMT 03:37 UK
Polio campaign targets Pakistan
By Ania Lichtarowicz
BBC health reporter

Child receiving polio vaccination
Women have been trained to administer the vaccination
National polio immunization campaigns are underway in Pakistan and Afghanistan as part of the effort to rid the world of the virus by 2005.

Programmes to reach every child under the age of five are being co-ordinated to reduce the risk of the virus spreading across the border.

The Indian and Pakistani cricket teams lent their support to immunisation during their recent test series.

Last year Pakistan had the highest number of polio cases in the world.

This was partly because vaccination campaigns were failing to reach children in remote areas. Immunization teams were only made up of male health care workers.

They weren't allowed into some family homes, so now local women have been trained to administer the vaccine.

The support for this latest campaign has been huge - government and local authorities are urging people to vaccinate their children through public events like marches and seminars.

In Afghanistan there remains only one reservoir of the virus in the south of the country, but vaccinations need to continue.

The World Health Organization hopes that tackling polio across the whole region simultaneously is the best way of stopping transmission of the paralysing virus by the end of this year.

But this target is looking more unrealistic as polio is spreading across Africa.

Botswana is now the ninth country to be reinfected from Nigeria, where immunisation campaigns are yet to restart in one of the country's northern states.

Kano state opted out of a drive last year, when some Islamic leaders said it was part of a western plot to render Muslim women infertile.

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