Red Cross seeks funds to fight polio in Congo

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The international Red Cross on Tuesday launched an urgent appeal for 1.1 million euros (about 1.5 million dollars) to help some four million people in the Republic of Congo where polio has left over 120 dead.

The funds will go towards training staff to deal with the epidemic which appeared early October, as well as providing clean water and sanitation, said the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

"The situation is alarming and we fear that the epidemic will spread very rapidly," said Christian Sedar Ndinga, president of the Congolese Red Cross.

"We must act urgently. We have mobilised more than 700 volunteers to deal with this crisis in the Kouilou and Pointe Noire regions, which are the most severely affected."

Polio was considered eradicated in Congo where no case had been registered since 2000, according to the World Health Organisation.

However, 128 deaths and 280 cases have been reported since the beginning of September, said the IFRC, citing WHO figures.

The most affected districts include Pointe Noire, Niari and Bouenza in the south, as well as the capital Brazzaville.

Aid workers launched a mass polio vaccination campaign on Friday. According to authorities, the Congo needs 12 million doses of the vaccine to complete the programme.

The IFRC said it was participating in the vaccination and would deploy a team of experts to help.

Polio is an infectious disease caused by a virus which attacks the nervous system and which could lead to paralysis in a few hours.

© 2010 AFP

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