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|UNITED NATIONS， Oct. 11 (Xinhua) -- The UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) on Tuesday said that a major health campaign is underway in the Lake Chad Basin area to vaccinate over 41 million children against polio.
The re-emergence of the disease after two years with no recorded cases is a huge concern in an area that was already in crisis. Nearly 39，000 health workers are deployed in the region to deliver the oral polio vaccine in areas at high-risk for the virus， the UN agency said. So far， approximately 30 million children have been vaccinated.
In the Lake Chad Basin， UNICEF's response remains hampered by continued insecurity and by a lack of funding. Out of the 158 million U.S. dollars needed for the emergency response in the region， only 50.4 million dollars have so far been received.
The Chad Basin is the largest endorheic drainage basin in Africa， centered on Lake Chad. It has no outlet to the sea and contains large areas of desert or semi-arid savanna. The drainage basin is roughly coterminous with the sedimentary basin of the same name， but extends further to the northeast and east.
The basin spans seven countries， including most of Chad and a large part of Niger. It has an ethnically diverse population of about 30 million people as of 2011， growing rapidly. A combination of dams， increased irrigation， and reduced rainfall are causing shortages of water. Lake Chad continues to shrink.
Populations fleeing conflict are on the move within the sub-region， raising concerns that the virus could spread across borders. The health workers are deployed across Nigeria and neighbouring Chad， Niger， Cameroon and the Central African Republic to deliver the oral polio vaccine in areas at high-risk for the virus during five rounds of coordinated vaccination campaigns across five countries.
UNICEF is procuring the vaccines and engaging the public through mass media and grassroots mobilization.
"The re-emergence of polio after two years with no recorded cases is a huge concern in an area that's already in crisis，" said Manuel Fontaine， the UNICEF regional director for West and Central Africa. "The scale of our response reflects the urgency: we must not allow polio to spread."
The ongoing conflict has now displaced 2.6 million people， devastated provision of healthcare and left more than four million people in northeast Nigeria facing emergency food security levels. In the three worst-hit Nigerian states， 400，000 children are at risk of death from severe acute malnutrition.
Years of violence by the extremist group Boko Haram in Africa's Lake Chad basin have led to a worsening humanitarian crisis that has displaced 1.4 million children and left at least one million still trapped in hard-to-reach areas，
Polio vaccination teams in parts of Borno state are conducting simultaneous malnutrition screening to identify cases of severe acute malnutrition in children under five and refer malnourished children to treatment programmes.
Findings from the first rounds of outreach screening have confirmed high rates of severe acute malnutrition.
"Children are dying and more young lives will be lost unless we scale up our response，" said Fontaine. "Through the polio vaccination drive， we can protect more children from the virus while also reaching children in need with treatment for malnutrition."
The third round of the current polio campaign runs from 15-18 October with additional rounds scheduled in November and December.
The immunization campaign is being delivered by national governments， with support from UNICEF， the World Health Organization， Rotary International， the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention， and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation， UNICEF said in a press release.
The coordinated efforts between the polio vaccination campaigns and childhood nutrition screenings are part of UNICEF's scaled-up response to the crisis.
However， UNICEF's response remains hampered by continued insecurity， especially in areas of Borno state in Nigeria， and by a lack of funding. Of the 158 million U.S. dollars needed for the emergency response in the region， only 50.4 million U.S. dollars have so far been received， the UN agency added.
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