Thousands working to combat polio in Republic of Congo

Thousands of Red Cross volunteers are working with communities in the Republic of Congo to stop the spread of polio, particularly in the young, as part of a new vaccination campaign.

"We must get to everyone in this age group," Georges Moyen, the Congolese health minister, said at a daily crisis briefing, according to "Make sure we vaccinate them all."

It is believed that the campaign has reached 2 million of the Congo’s 3.6 million people. Volunteers are working to explain the importance of being vaccinated, to allay fears and administer drops.

More than 2,240 Congolese Red Cross volunteers have joined United Nations and various NGO staff to form the backbone of the campaign, reports.

"We haven't experienced too much resistance," volunteer Dada Mandeko said, according to ReliefWeb.Int. Mandeko was in Brazzaville, checking the fingers of everyone he met for the distinctive mark that denotes a vaccination. "A few people have concerns, but I say to them that I've had it, my family has had it, and even the president had it live on television."

It remains unclear what precipitated the outbreak currently affecting the Republic of Congo, but many volunteers are blaming the poor living conditions of the local population.

"Every year we have an outbreak of some kind," volunteer Gauhy Medard said, according to ReliefWeb.Int. "Last time it was cholera. This year it's polio. To fight cholera we were telling people to drink clean water, wash their hands with soap and keep good hygiene and sanitation.

“But now to fight polio, people don't really understand the importance of being vaccinated, so we need to go door-to-door to convince communities of the dangers of polio and the need to have everybody vaccinated. That is all we can do.”