Congo-Kinshasa: Polio Outbreak Threatens a Global Crisis

Kinshasa — THE outbreak of poliovirus in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is feared to spread to neighbouring countries as thousands flee the war-torn country.

Some 20 children have been affected by the paralysing disease that has been declared a national public health emergency in the DRC.

For the epidemic, Haut-Lomami and Tanganyika (are among the most affected provinces, with indicators of surveillance and immunisation coverage still low compared to national averages.

Dr Oly Ilunga Kalenga, the Minister of Public Health, said viral strains were circulating and could spread to other children because of the intense movement of populations.

"The virus can go as far as reaching neighboring countries in the region, or even countries far away from the world because of intense international traffic," said the minister.

According to investigations by government and partner agencies, a large part of affected children did not receive their routine vaccination.

At the same time, the main reasons for the absence of vaccination are to be found in the refusal of parents to vaccinate their children for religious beliefs.

Dr Allarangar Yokouidé, the World Health Organisation (WHO) representative in the DRC, said WHO, in close collaboration with the other partners, would continue providing all the necessary support to the Congolese government for the effective implementation of the plan to interrupt the circulation of the virus.

Most of the support would be towards reinforcing surveillance and immunization as well as mobilizing substantial resources for the organisation of response campaigns.

The vast Central African country is experiencing vast population movements as mirebel groups wreak havoc.

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