, NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 20 – Kenya on Saturday launched polio vaccination campaign in 22 districts considered to be at a high risk of an outbreak.
Public Health and Sanitation Minister Beth Mugo called on parents and guardians in the targeted districts to allow health workers to administer the vaccine and also take their children for vaccination.
The affected districts are in the Rift Valley, Nyanza and Western Kenya.
"We don\’t want any children in our country or region to be paralysed because of polio. We urge our neighbours to strengthen their health systems, even as we strengthen ours, so that we can protect our children," she said.
The vaccination campaign that will end in January follows an outbreak in neighbouring Uganda in mid-October.
The campaign being supported by the Ministry of Public Health and Sanitation in partnership with UNICEF and World Health Organisation targets about 900,000 children under five years old.
Health workers will move from house to house, giving the polio vaccine to all children under five years in the 22 districts.
The first round was launched on Saturday morning in Busia, Western Kenya and it will run up to Wednesday.
The second round will start on 11th to 15th December and while the third round will be on 15th to 19th January 2011.
Ms Mugo earlier in the month said the campaign would cost about Sh200 million which has already been made available by the government and development partners.
UNICEF Kenya Representative Olivia Yambi called on Kenya and other partners to act fast to avert a polio outbreak.
"This is a call to all partners to rally behind the government to contain the spread of polio. Any single child affected by polio is one too many," she said, adding that a child who might be paralyzed by polio could suffer long-term exclusion in society.
She urged governments to allocate enough funding for routine immunization for all children, "We must look beyond the averages to address existing disparities and ensure all children are reached through routine immunisation. Every child who is going to be affected by polio is a condemnation on all of us, that we have not done enough."
Kenyan managed to kick out polio about 10 years ago. However, outbreaks in neighbouring countries have prompted the country to carry out the polio immunisation campaign due to porous borders.