From: Reuters
Published December 8, 2007 08:42 AM

Bangladesh completes polio vaccination drive

DHAKA (Reuters) - Millions of children across Bangladesh were given their second vaccination against polio on Saturday, completing a drive to wipe out the disease, which re-emerged early last year, health ministry officials said.

The first round of vaccinations against the incurable disease, which affects mainly children under five and causes paralysis in a matter of hours, was given to some 25 million children on October 27.

The children were also given a Vitamin A capsule to improve their night vision.

Bangladesh, declared polio-free in August 2000, has launched several rounds of vaccinations since the disease re-emerged in March 2006, infecting some 18 children.

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Most cases were in eastern areas on the border with India, one of four countries where polio is endemic.

Health officials believe the Bangladesh outbreak may have originated in India, which has reported more than 500 polio cases, a blow to global efforts to eradicate the disease.

Helped by the United Nations Children's Fund UNICEF and the World Health Organisation (WHO), Bangladesh engaged some 800,000 health workers and volunteers to complete the latest drive.

"The latest drive was successfully completed as almost all targeted children were vaccinated at thousands of centers across the country," retired Major-General Matiur Rahman, health adviser to the interim government, told reporters.

Polio spread from India's populous Uttar Pradesh state to neighboring Nepal and Bangladesh and distant Angola and Namibia in 2006. All were previously polio-free.

Separately, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) said in a statement it will provide $173 million over the next five years to fund programs supporting maternal and child health in an agreement with Bangladesh.

The statement was issued after Kent Hill, Assistant administrator USAID, visited some health projects outside Dhaka on Saturday during his three-day tour in Bangladesh.

(Reporting by Nizam Ahmed, Editing by Ibon Villelabeitia)

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