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Mia Farrow Champions Polio Vaccination in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Mia Farrow gives a girl a dose of oral polio vaccine at an immunization site in the Gueljem neighbourhood of the town of Moundou in Logone Region. © UNICEF/NYHQ2012-0062/Olivier Asselin

“I had polio as a child,” says Farrow. “I was one of the lucky ones who managed to escape without any permanent effect. But my son, who was adopted from India, is a paraplegic as a result of polio.”

Polio is a preventable disease. With the proper vaccines, it can be eradicated for good. Globally, instances of polio have been reduced by 99 percent since 1988. In the DRC, however, polio rates are increasing. Although the country was polio-free between 2000 and 2006, there were 93 recorded cases last year. To address this growing menace, UNICEF and partners launched an ambitious campaign to vaccinate more than 4.5 million people across six provinces.

The DRC is beset with an ongoing armed conflict that has displaced about 1.7 million people. In addition to the health threat posed by polio, children are at risk from violence, displacement and a lack of social services. “[C]hildren have a lot of challenges here,” Farrow states. “One we can eliminate is polio.”