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WHO, UNICEF issue alert on low polio, measles vaccinations

Health official vaccinating a child.   -  
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Millions of children, especially in Nigeria, the most populous nation in Africa, are at risk of not being vaccinated against polio and measles because of the coronavirus, UNICEF and the World Health Organization have alerted.

"It is essential to address the global Covid-19 pandemic. However, other deadly diseases, such as polio and measles, also threaten the lives of millions of children in some of the poorest parts of the world," UNICEF and the WHO said in a joint statement issued Wednesday in Abuja.

According to the two organizations, there has been "a global resurgence of measles with epidemics under way in all regions of the world in recent years.

Gaps in immunization coverage have been further exacerbated in 2020 by Covid-19, they added and called for "urgent action" by global donors and policymakers.

The situation in Nigeria, and its nearly 200 million people, is worrying. Although the country was declared free of wild polio in August 2020, it "remains at risk of outbreaks of polio and measles due to a small improvement in immunization coverage," according to the statement.

Only 54 percent of children in Nigeria, for example, have received the first dose of measles vaccine, according to 2018 data.

On Monday, Nigerian authorities announced a sudden spike in cases and deaths from yellow fever, a deadly but vaccinated disease, in two southern regions.

In the neighboring Benue region, at least 17 people have died in recent days from an unknown disease, local media reported Wednesday.

The country has so far been relatively spared by the coronavirus pandemic, which has officially killed 1,154 people out of more than 64,000 registered cases. But the number of tests is largely insufficient.

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