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February 2000

Short news items with a Post-Polio element gleaned from 'here, there and everywhere'. Contributions welcomed. Email newsbites@loncps.demon.co.uk. Please make it clear that your news item is for inclusion in NewsBites and include any source references.

25th February 2000
Polio Eradication: Days of tranquillity allow access to Nuba Mountains for polio campaign.

In Africa News Online (http://www.africanews.org/) the UN Integrated Regional Information Network (IRIN) reports:

A programme to immunise 77,000 children in the Nuba Mountains region against polio was launched on Wednesday, as part of a national immunisation campaign that started on 17 February and will continue to the end of the month, a UNICEF press release stated. The Nuba Mountains portion of the polio campaign marks the first time in almost 19 years that the UN has gained access to deliver humanitarian relief in this region, contested by the government and rebel SPLM. While UN agencies have conducted two recent assessment missions to the Nuba Mountains, this is the first time that Khartoum has approved the delivery of UN assistance to people living in the SPLM-controlled areas of the region, the statement added. The government and SPLM have agreed on a "window of tranquillity", expected to last until the end of the month.

This item is delivered by the UN's IRIN humanitarian information unit (e-mail: irin@ocha.unon.org; fax: +254 2 622129; Web: http://www.reliefweb.int/IRIN), but may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations. If you re-print, copy, archive or re-post this item, please retain this credit and disclaimer.

The above is extracted from a report "Critical conditions in northern Bahr el Ghazal, Western Upper Nile", the complete text of which can be found at http://www.africanews.org/
east/sudan/stories/20000225/20000225_feat1.html

Notification of the above news item was received via NewsIndex http://www.newsindex.com/

For Polio eradication and vaccine related resources see our directory Polio Virus, Vaccine and Eradication

[ Index ]

23rd February 2000

Polio Eradication: Bashir Flags Off Sudan's Polio Vaccination Campaign.

In Africa News Online (http://www.africanews.org/) the Panafrican News Agency reports from Khartoum, Sudan:

Sudan's sixth national polio vaccination campaign took off Wednesday, aimed at protecting 5.4 million children below five from the crippling disease.

President Omar Hassan el Bashir launched the campaign by vaccinating the first baby at the Mayo health centre in Khartoum South district. The Health Director of the UNICEF office in Khartoum, Rafa Aziz, said that "despite the previous vaccination campaigns we have found that the polio virus still exists in Sudan."

"That is why we are determined to finally eliminate the disease this time," she said.

"It is the duty of all - the government, the NGOs and the society - to work for the elimination of the disease," she said, adding that vaccines were available in good quantities and are gratis.

The director in charge of vaccination in the health ministry, Hamza Omar Hamza, said UNICEF and WHO officials would monitor the progress of the campaign which is also being watched closely by the WHO regional office in Alexandria, Egypt.

He said the campaign coincides with a similar programme undertaken by the UNICEF in rebel-held areas in the South in close co-ordination with Lifeline Operation Sudan, a UN-sponsored relief programme.

The director of primary healthcare in the ministry, Abdulgaffar Adam, said a campaign carried out in November and December to vaccinate children in border areas "was remarkably successful."

The complete text of the news report can be found at http://www.africanews.org/
east/sudan/stories/20000223/20000223_feat3.html

[ Index ]

Polio Eradication: Border unrest hits polio drive.

In Africa News Online (http://www.africanews.org/) Christof Maletsky of "The Namibian" reports from Windhoek:

Insecurity along Namibia's border with Angola has sparked fears that it could open the door to a renewed outbreak of polio in the country.

Senior personnel in the Ministry of Health told a seminar for health reporters in Windhoek on Monday that the country was already 15 per cent below its target of achieving 80 per cent immunisation by the year 2000.

This could be worsened by the fact that health workers are no longer able to cover some areas in the north-east.

Speaking on 'Child Survival in Namibia', Director of Primary Health Care, Maggy Nghatanga, told the workshop that immunisation figures stood at 74 per cent in 1994 but dropped to 57 per cent in 1997.

Last year it picked up again with 65 per cent immunisation recorded, but was still below the Ministry's target of 80 per cent.

However, at present Namibia remains polio-free. Angolan children entering the country are immunised before being sent to Osire refugee camp.

Nghatanga attributed the lower figures to several factors, among them lack of transport and the frequent rotation of nurses.

But she expressed fears that the insecurity in the north-east could worsen the figures.

"The fighting will contribute negatively to the immunisation programme. We visited Rundu three weeks ago and our health workers are really frightened to go into remote areas for the immunisation of the children," Nghatanga said.

She also revealed that some well-established health services between Divundu and Kongola had been closed because of threats to security.

"We don't really know what to do but we have suggested that the Ministry of Defence officials escort our people whenever they go out to work. We have clinics alongside the border with unarmed security and we also requested the Defence Ministry to provide us with armed people," she said.

At its annual meeting in Geneva in May 1988, the World Health Assembly, the governing body of the World Health Organization (WHO), resolved to eradicate polio globally by the year 2000.

Polio is one of only a limited number of diseases (others include measles and guinea worm disease) that can be eliminated.

This is because it only affects humans, an effective and inexpensive vaccine exists (OPV), immunity is life-long, and there are no long-term carriers while the virus can only survive in the environment for a very short time.

The global eradication of polio involves both halting the incidence of the disease and the worldwide eradication of the virus that causes it - polio virus.

The complete text of the news report can be found at http://www.africanews.org/
south/namibia/stories/20000223/20000223_feat1.html

Notification of the above news items was received via NewsIndex http://www.newsindex.com/

For Polio eradication and vaccine related resources see our directory Polio Virus, Vaccine and Eradication

[ Index ]

16th February 2000

Polio Eradication: For Ghana's Densely Populated Areas.

In Africa News Online (http://www.africanews.org/) the Panafrican News Agency reports from Accra, Ghana:

Densely populated areas in three regions of Ghana are to benefit from a special polio immunisation programme Friday, ahead of the second round of the National Immunisation Days programme slated for Saturday.

Andy Bortey, national co-ordinator of the National Immunisation Days, said this would involve an intensive house-to-house immunisation of all children under five in parts of Accra, Kumasi and Tamale. He added that this special exercise would cost an extra 133 million cedis.

"This is to reach children in difficult areas such as Sodom and Gomorra, near the Agbogbloshie Market in Accra, in order to make sure that traders, kayayee (female porters) and other parents who do not have the time because of their work would nonetheless have their children immunised," he told the national news agency Tuesday. He said the fingers of these children would be marked by indelible ink to avoid being immunised again during the second phase.

Some 3.9 million children are expected to be immunised during the second phase.

The immunisation is being carried out with the support of agencies and organisations such as Rotary International, US Agency for International Development, Canadian International Development Agency and UNICEF, which are making available three million US dollars for the second round.

The complete text of the news report can be found at http://www.africanews.org/
west/ghana/stories/20000216/20000216_feat5.html

[ Index ]

Polio Eradication: Immunised by force Children.

Santuah Niagia of "AFRICANEWS - News and Views on Africa from Africa" reports from Nairobi in Africa News Online (http://www.africanews.org/):

Health workers backed by the police surrounded a Church and forcibly immunised children against polio after the church elders had protested that immunisation is against their doctrine.

One hundred and fifty five children whose parents are adherents of the Christ Apostolic Faith Church of Kpalexose in the Ho District of the Volta Region in southeastern Ghana were forcibly given polio vaccine and vitamin "A" supplement during this year's national polio immunisation programme.

This was after health authorities and district officials had tried unsuccessfully since January this year to persuade the church leadership to soften their stand against the immunisation exercise on the basis that it was against their religious doctrine. It took a combined team of the police, District Assembly members and health workers led by the District Chief Executive, Captain (rtd) George Kofi Mfojo to carry out the exercise described as very successful and incident free. That was the first time health workers had been able to immunise the children of members of the church.

The Christ Apostolic Church was established in 1931. Its doctrine is said to be against orthodox medical intervention and has persistently refused to allow children of its members to be immunised against polio. The members claim to rely on prayers, and nothing else, to cure all ailments. When the national immunisation day opened in the Ho District of the Volta region in southeastern Ghana a week ahead of schedule, members of the church locked up all their children under five years to prevent health teams from reaching them and administering the polio vaccine and the vitamin "A" supplement. Several entreaties by the district assembly officials, health workers and Rotary International which has committed US$400 million for the exercise, to convince the church members to have their children immunised against polio, fell on deaf ears.

Under an exercise named "Operation Polio Power" the District Chief Executive accompanied by the Presiding Member of the Ho District Assembly, Francis Kwaku and the District Director of Health, Dr Mark Amexo arrived at the church at about 11 am when the congregation was about to close and pretended to join in the service.

The church members gladly received them and after the closing prayer, Captain Mfodjo was offered the opportunity to deliver a goodwill message. There upon a busload of policemen and health workers swooped in and surrounded the church building and the health workers began administering the polio vaccine as well as the vitamin "A" supplement to the children.

The stupefied church members were at first agitated but after their leaders asked them to hold it, the exercise proceeded and after 30 minutes all the 155 children in church that Sunday were immunised. When it was over, the enraged church members rattled in tongues, shed tears, wailed and called on God to punish the invaders.

The district heads expressed satisfaction with the exercise describing it as successful while the District Chief Executive emphasised that no church would be allowed to undermine any government programme to improve the living conditions of the people especially the deprived in the country. With the first phase completed the second phase of the polio immunisation programme comes off on February 19 and is expected to cover up to 80 per cent of all children under five years old throughout the country.

Health in general and child survival in particular remains a priority of the government and a lot of investment has gone into improving health delivery over the past few years. The number of government health facilities increased from 674 in 1994 to 859 by the middle of 1999 whilst the number of hospitals in the public sector increased from 62 to 82 within the same period. These developments have translated into overall improvements in health indices.

The average life expectancy has increased from 49 years in the late 1980s to 56 years by the close of the century. More children are also now surviving the critical childhood years than ever before. The infant mortality rate dropped from 66.4 per 1000 live births in 1993 to 56.7 in 1999. Under-five mortality rate has gone down from 119.4 per 1000 live births in 1993 to 107.6 in 1999, an indication that immunisation exercises such as the annual polio immunisation programme, are covering wider areas and achieving more success. The programme to eradicate polio from Ghana by the end of the year 2000 is on track. In 1998, 23 cases of polio were reported. In 1999 only two cases of polio were detected.

"Operation Polio Power" may have given 155 more children the opportunity to face the crippling effects of poliomyelitis with the hope of conquering it but it has also re-opened the debate about whether it is health authorities or parents who should take the final decision when it comes to a child's interests. Many people including the media seem to concur that the action of the Ho district authorities in forcibly immunising the children against the wishes of their parents.

In a radio interview after the incident, the deputy commissioner in charge of administration of the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice, Mrs. Angeline Dormakyaare, said the forcible immunisation of the children was appropriate.

However, Rev Dr Annor-Yeboah, General Secretary of the Christ Apostolic Church International, one of the most popular and fastest growing charismatic churches in Ghana, which was mistaken for the Christ Apostolic Faith Church, said even though the two churches are completely different he shares their religious concerns. He said the district authorities visited the violence on members of the Christ Apostolic Faith Church because they found them vulnerable and questioned why the same amount of force cannot be used to compel certain local communities to stop practicing certain customs that clearly violate human rights. He cited the "Trokosi" system in which young girls are given out to serve in shrines to atone for the sins of their parents or relatives.

The "trokosi" system for which NGOs are working to 'liberate' its 'captives', is a custom practised in southern Ghana in which young girls are offered to serve a shrine to atone for a crime committed by the girl's parents or relatives. Though rarely boys are offered, it is often girls who are given out to suffer the humiliating conditions of life in the shrines as they are exposed to all kinds of abuse including sexual by the owners of the shrines. When they marry, and they invariably marry a shrine elder, their children face an uncertain future. Rev Annor Yeboah urged the authorities to always use dialogue to resolve issues pertaining to a person's faith and traditions in order to effect impressive and lasting change.

AFRICANEWS News & Views on Africa from Africa Koinonia Media Centre, P.O. Box 8034, Nairobi, Kenya email: amani@iol.it

The complete text of the news report can be found at http://www.africanews.org/
west/ghana/stories/20000216/20000216_feat1.html

Notification of the above news items was received via NewsIndex http://www.newsindex.com/

For Polio eradication and vaccine related resources see our directory Polio Virus, Vaccine and Eradication

[ Index ]

15th February 2000
Obituaries: Rev. Peter Damian Fox.

The Chicago Tribune (http://www.chicago.tribune.com/) writes of the Rev. Peter Damian Fox:

Rev. Peter Damian Fox, 67, a Jesuit priest and former Loyola University counselor who suffered from the effects of polio for more than four decades but used the experience to counsel others during their hardships, died Thursday, Feb. 10, at the Colombiere Center, a retirement home for Jesuit priests and brothers in Clarkston, Mich. The cause was thought to be respiratory failure related to his struggle with polio. "He never expected too much of anyone else. He let people learn at their own pace," said Rev. John Dillon, a longtime friend of Father Fox's. "He was always patient, always had a sense of humor." Father Fox, an athlete in his youth, barely survived his bout with polio, which relegated him for a time to an iron lung and kept him from playing sports again. But Father Fox discovered he had a gift for mathematics and for counseling. He taught math at some Midwestern high schools, including Loyola Academy in Wilmette, and spent most of his priesthood at Loyola University's Water Tower campus. From 1967 until 1980, Father Fox was a minister at the campus, focusing on helping students going through tough transitions. When his eyesight became too weak for him to continue working in mathematics, he began specializing in computers. He remained at Loyola's Jesuit residence until 1998, when he was transferred to Michigan for health reasons. Father Fox, fiercely independent, perhaps as a reaction to his poor health, nonetheless remained steadfastly cheerful. Among fellow Jesuits, he was known for an impish streak that found its way into conversation. He was likewise renowned for a ferocious dedication to sports and sports teams from Indiana -- his home state -- from college basketball to the Indianapolis 500. Father Fox is survived by two brothers, William and Michael; and a sister, Sheila McCarthy.

The full text of the obituary can be found at http://www.chicago.tribune.com/
version1/article/0,1575,SAV-0002150167,00.html

[ Index ]

10th February 2000
Polio survivor repays state for aid in '30s.

Erica Curless of the Gazette State Bureau reports from Helena in the Billings Gazette Online (http://www.billingsgazette.com/):

Tim Sheehan waited almost 70 years to repay Montana for letting him fly.

Without help from the state vocational rehabilitation program, this polio survivor says he wouldn't have launched an adventuresome aviation career. That's why Sheehan, 84, sent the state Disability Services Division $1,000 last month - the estimated amount of what his services cost the state in 1934.

Sheehan wants the cash to help another young adult with a disability find such a successful career.

"I have quite a lot of gratitude for them because they are the people that launched my career in aviation," Sheehan said in a telephone interview from his Port Charlotte, Fla., condo. "I can't thank the state of Montana enough for the help they have given me as someone affected by polio."

The complete text of the news report of which the above is an extract can be found at http://www.billingsgazette.com/region/20000210_reg17.html

Notification of the above news item was received via NewsIndex http://www.newsindex.com/

[ Index ]

9th February 2000
Polio Eradication: Polio Eradication Certificate For Guinean President.

In Africa News Online (http://www.africanews.org/) the Panafrican News Agency reports from Dakar, Senegal:

The president of Guinea, Gen. Lansana Conte, has been presented with a certificate by the World Health Organisation for his personal commitment to the drive to eradicate polio.

The certificate was presented to the Guinean leader recently by the WHO regional director for Africa, Dr Ebrahim Samba.

"Through your personal commitment you have contributed to the success of three National Immunisation Days, and encouraged the population to embrace vaccination - the only way to eradicate some of the diseases ravaging the continent," Samba told Conte.

According to a news release from the Harare temporary WHO regional office for Africa, Samba said Guinea's "efforts are encouraging and give us reason to hope (that polio can be eradicated)."

Conte thanked WHO for its assistance in improving the health situation in his country, particularly in spearheading the campaign to eradicate polio.

More than four million children under the age of five received supplemental vitamin A doses during the three National Immunisation Days in 1999.

The complete text of the news report can be found at http://www.africanews.org/
west/guinea/stories/20000209/20000209_feat1.html

Notification of the above news item was received via NewsIndex http://www.newsindex.com/

For Polio eradication and vaccine related resources see our directory Polio Virus, Vaccine and Eradication

[ Index ]

3rd February 2000
Polio Eradication: Polio vaccine could backfire.

BBC News Online (http://news.bbc.co.uk/), Thursday, 3 February, 2000, 01:56 GMT:

Eradicating polio may not be as easy as first thought, experts have warned.

According to New Scientist magazine, the same vaccine that is being used to eradicate the disease may help to ensure the survival of the killer virus.

The disease used to kill or paralyse hundreds of thousands of people every year.

But since widespread vaccination began in 1955, the virus has been wiped out everywhere except for a few regions of Asia and Africa.

The World Health Organization (WHO) plans to eradicate polio by 2005.

Dangerous type.

However, some experts believe the vaccine itself could pose a threat even after the disease has been wiped out.

The main vaccine being used to eradicate polio consists of a live, weakened form of the virus.

This vaccine virus could persist after the disease-causing polio virus is gone - and occasionally revert to the dangerous type.

If that happens after vaccination stops, unvaccinated children would be defenceless.

Polio experts raised these concerns at a meeting in Geneva last month.

Tjeerd Kimman, of the National Institute of Public Health and the Environment in the Netherlands, warned against stopping vaccinating once the disease had been eradicated.

Children vulnerable.

The polio virus, which is spread by food and water contaminated with faeces, does not cause serious symptoms in most people, but if it spreads to the nervous system it can be deadly.

Children are particularly vulnerable to the virus.

In 1988, when the WHO launched its global eradication campaign, there were some 35,000 cases of polio worldwide.

But, ten years later, with 82 per cent of the world's children vaccinated, this number had dropped to just 3,200.

By far the most common polio vaccine in the world is oral polio vaccine (OPV), a suspension of the weakened form of the polio virus.

OPV is cheaper than alternative vaccines, easier to administer and has the advantage of inducing immunity in the gut, where the virus first invades.

Because it is 'live', OPV viruses also spread in faeces, immunising unvaccinated people who come into contact with vaccinated children.

But OPV viruses differ from their nastier relatives by only a few mutations.

Dangerous forms.

Paul Fine, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said conditions in the gut favour their reversion to dangerous forms.

OPV viruses shed in faeces are genetically closer to the dangerous forms, and it is well documented that viruses shed in this way can cause disease.

It is also known that OPV viruses can persist for years in people with impaired immune systems, where they also mutate faster than in healthier populations.

This could means the millions of HIV-infected people worldwide might provide a haven for these viruses.

Once vaccination has stopped, Dr Fine estimates OPV viruses might have to persist only for three to ten years before a large enough population of non-immunised people accumulated to start spreading them.

OPV makes it harder to determine when wild polio virus has been eradicated.

It may be possible to eradicate OPV viruses by continuing to vaccinate for several years after polio appears to have been eradicated using older vaccines made up of dead viruses.

However, this would be extremely expensive, and could pose a danger if the vaccine components escaped into the general population before they have been processed.

The complete text of the news report can be found at http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/health/newsid_628000/628427.stm

Notification of the above news item was received via NewsIndex http://www.newsindex.com/

The New Scientist (http://www.newscientist.com/) referred to can be found at http://www.newscientist.com/news/news.jsp?id=ns2224184 plus an editorial from the same issue at http://www.newscientist.com/editorial/editorial.jsp?id=ns2224229

For Polio eradication and vaccine related resources see our directory Polio Virus, Vaccine and Eradication

[ Index ]

DATELINE
25th February 2000
Polio Eradication: Days of tranquillity allow access to Nuba Mountains for polio campaign.
*
23rd February 2000
Item 1
Polio Eradication: Bashir Flags Off Sudan's Polio Vaccination Campaign
and
Item 2
Polio Eradication: Border unrest hits polio drive.
*
16th February 2000
Item 1
Polio Eradication: For Ghana's Densely Populated Areas
and
Item 2
Polio Eradication: Immunised by force Children.
*
15th February 2000
Obituaries: Rev. Peter Damian Fox.
*
10th February 2000
Polio survivor repays state for aid in '30s.
*
9th February 2000
Polio Eradication: Polio Eradication Certificate For Guinean President.
*
3rd February 2000
Polio Eradication: Polio vaccine could backfire.
*
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