UN finds polio among Madagascar's children

Archive photo of a child receiving an oral polio vaccine in Ivory Coast
Image caption Vaccination programmes have to reach 80-90% of the population to be effective

An outbreak of polio in three children from the south of Madagascar has raised concerns over a possible resurgence of this crippling disease.

The UN children's fund (Unicef) has called for urgent action to prevent its spread.

Unicef spokesman Daniel Timme says three cases of polio without symptoms have been identified.

The disease was discovered during Unicef's Mother and Child Health week following tests and urine samples.

Mr Timme said that the symptoms could emerge in these children at any time.

Polio vaccination programmes must reach at least 80 to 90% of the population of the region to be effective.

Otherwise there is a risk that non-vaccinated children could produce a mutation of the polio disease.

Vaccination campaigns disrupted

Unicef experts believe this may be the case in Madagascar, as has been seen elsewhere in Africa, including Nigeria.

The political crisis in Madagascar since 2009 has interrupted vaccination programmes across the country.

Shortages of fuel for refrigerators to store the vaccines, and the closure of 250 clinics, have reduced vaccination rates to less than 40% in the south.

Two further vaccination campaigns are now required to ensure 90% of the 700,000 children are vaccinated to curb a potential epidemic.

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