05 March 2007
A Bangladeshi child receives an oral polio vaccination in Dhaka, December 2006. Bangladeshi health officials plan to immunise 24 million children under five against polio in a mammoth nationwide operation on 3 March after fresh outbreaks.(AFP/File/Farjana K. Godhuly) Dhaka, Bangladesh:
Bangladesh will deliver polio vaccinations to about 24 million children on Saturday in an effort to eliminate the disease, officials say.
Polio re-surfaced in the country last year after nearly six years of absence, the health ministry says.
The government, with UN help, launched a new series of campaigns against polio in April last year.
About 700,000 volunteers and health workers will span the country to vaccinate children in 140,000 camps.
"We will start a fresh new immunisation drive on Saturday. We will immunise all of the country's 24m children aged under five-years-old that day," the government's immunisation programme manager, Abdul Qader, said.
He said that special attention will be paid to immunising children along the border with India as that country has one of the highest number of new cases of polio.
India reported at least 525 polio cases last year.
Health centres will be opened across Bangladesh and volunteers sent everywhere from inner cities to remote rural areas.
Mr Qader said that volunteers will go from door to door visiting people's homes, and set up mobile teams at train and bus stations and airports.
Bangladesh had been unofficially declared polio-free since 2000, after the government carried out a series of immunisation drives against the virus.
But Mr Qader said that 17 new cases had been reported since January last year.
The polio vaccine is usually administered orally.
"Our country is not safe, as neighbours India and Pakistan are not polio free," Health Minister ASM Matiur Rahman was quoted as saying on Thursday by the United News of Bangladesh agency.
He said that another round of vaccinations would start on 8 April.
The polio virus enters the body through the mouth and multiplies in the intestine.
It invades the nervous system and can cause permanent paralysis within hours. It can be fatal in some cases.