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UK to give £10m for polio campaign

Britain will provide £10 million to a campaign to vaccinate more than six million people against an outbreak of polio in Somalia and Kenya, International Development Secretary Justine Greening has announced.

The UK will provide the funds to help the United Nations World Health Organisation carry out a vaccination campaign to tackle the first outbreaks of polio in Somalia since 2007 and in Kenya since 2011.

The UN has warned that without further support the disease could quickly develop into an epidemic across East Africa and put countless lives and livelihoods at risk.

Ms Greening said: "While the world has almost eradicated polio, this new outbreak shows that we cannot rest until we have stamped it out completely.

"There is a very real risk that this outbreak could quickly become a problem across the entire region. We must act now to stop this deadly and debilitating disease from spreading further."

Britain's assistance will allow the World Health Organisation (WHO) to immunise 6.1 million people most at risk from the disease in Somalia, northern Kenya and other countries in the region, the Department for International Development (DfID) said.

An outbreak of polio was detected in the Banaadir district of Somalia's capital Mogasdishu and in the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya in May this year.

According to WHO figures there were 105 recorded cases in Somalia and Kenya by the end of last month.

While there is no cure for the highly infectious virus, it can be prevented from spreading by vaccination and immunisation. According to DfID, latest estimates show that one million children are at risk of the disease in Somalia as the country recovers from decades of conflict, devastating natural disasters and terrorist control.

Only 17% of children in Somaliland receive three doses of polio vaccine by their first birthday. In Puntland this figure is just 8% and in South Central Somalia there have been extremely low levels of immunisations for the past three years, DfID said.

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