By Michelle Steven – EMTV News, Port Moresby
Phase 2 of the nationwide polio campaign was launched today by Health and HIV/AIDS Minister, Sir Puka Temu. The Minister also declared 2019 as ‘the Year of Immunisation’. Minister Temu urged parents and caregivers to co-operate with health workers and NGO’s to successfully complete this year’s phase.
During the first phase of the nationwide polio campaign last year, a total of 3.2 million children under the age of 15 were vaccinated. This year, the National Department of Health in partnership with the United Nations, World Health (WHO) Organisation, United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), the Australian Government and other partners are looking at taking things a notch higher to making Papua New Guinea polio-free again.
In June 26th last year a national public health emergency was declared in Papua New Guinea after a polio outbreak was announced. Papua New Guinea was declared polio-free in 2000 after the last case was recorded in 1998, however, the disease re-emerged in 2018. After being confirmed in Morobe Province, the polio disease has since spread to nine provinces with 26 positive cases to date.
United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund Country Representative, David Mcloughlin, said that polio, measles, pertussis and other diseases should not be heard of in 2019 because these are vaccine-preventable diseases. Mcloughlin said that UNICEF once again is committed to the children and to working with all partners to ensure that children of this nation are protected from vaccine preventable diseases and that Papua New Guinea is polio free again.
World Health Organisation Country Representative, Dr Luo Dapeng, said that one child lost to a vaccine preventable disease is one child too many; and that the polio outbreak was indeed a disaster but it also gave a great opportunity to improve the health system while protecting every child from diseases.