News / Africa

Horn of Africa Polio Outbreak Thwarts Global Eradication Effort

Horn of Africa Polio Outbreak Thwarts Global Eradication Efforti
X
September 09, 2013 10:21 AM
The global community came tantalizing close earlier this year to ridding the world of polio. But then in May, the eradication effort took a powerful blow. The virus turned up again in the Horn of Africa, first in Somalia. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas looks at what happened and what is being done to wipe out polio once and for all.

Horn of Africa Polio Outbreak Thwarts Global Eradication Effort

Related Articles

Mary Alice Salinas
The global community came tantalizingly close earlier this year to ridding the world of polio.  But then in May, the eradication effort took a powerful blow. The virus turned up again in the Horn of Africa, first in Somalia.  

The Banadir region of Somalia, which includes a Mogadishu refugee camp, is thought to be the so-called “engine” of the Horn of Africa polio outbreak.
 
In June, three-year-old Mohamed Naasir became ill.  His mother, Khadija Abdullahi Adam, said soon after one leg became permanently disabled.
 
“My son was fine, but he started having a high fever which lasted for almost four days," she explained.  "I gave him medicine, but there was no change.  The following morning he said to me ‘Mom, I can’t stand up.’”
 
The virus has spread at a rapid pace, triggering massive vaccination efforts.
 
Earlier in 2013, polio was confined to three so-called “endemic countries” -- Nigeria, Afghanistan and Pakistan -- where the virus has never been snuffed out.  Combined there were fewer than 100 cases in those three countries.
 
Since the virus re-emerged in the Horn of Africa, there have been at least 160 polio cases in Somalia alone, and the virus has spread to Kenya and Ethiopia.
 
Genetic analysts suggest the virus sweeping through the Horn of Africa is most similar to the strain found in Nigeria.
 
Partners working to eradicate polio, such as the World Health Organization, UNICEF and Rotary International, say the virus can spread more easily in Somalia, which has the largest group of unvaccinated children.  That’s largely because conflict has kept vaccination crews from being able to reach them.  But there are other problems too, according to Rotary International’s Dr. John Sever.
 
“The problems of being remote, problems of distrust on the part of the families, the problems of communication, the problems of mapping and realizing where these people are and they migrate from one area to another,” Sever said.
 
Many families are suspicious of outsiders, especially from the West. 
 
So for vaccination crews, it is vital that they work with local government and religious leaders, like Somali Islamic scholar Sheikh Abdulkadir Homhamed Soomow.
 
“We urge the people of Somalia to be vaccinated. The doctors tell us that polio can kill and it’s harmful to both adults and children,” he said.
 
Recently, global partners agreed on a five-year plan to end polio once and for all.  The intensive effort includes blanketing polio hotspots with vaccination crews, to essentially corner and kill the enemy.  
 
“We’re getting closer, that’s the encouraging part," Dr. Sever said, adding that global partners know what to do and still hope to rid the world of polio by 2015. 
 

You May Like

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said To Be Improving

Experimental drugs have been tried on six people: three Westerners and now, three African pyhysicians More

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities residents rebuild their lives, but many say everyone is being treated with suspicion More

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

Girls learn to object; FGM practitioners face penalties from jail sentences to stiff fines More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improvingi
X
Carol Pearson
August 19, 2014 11:43 PM
The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.
Video

Video For Obama, Racial Violence is Personal Issue

The racial violence in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson is presenting U.S. President Barack Obama with an issue to which he has a deep personal connection. To many Americans, Obama's election as America's first black president marked a turning point in race relations in the United States, and Obama has made ending the violence a policy priority. On Monday he issued a new call for calm and understanding. Luis Ramirez reports from the White House.
Video

Video Clinton-Obama Relationship Could Impact 2016 Election

President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have a long and complicated relationship. That relationship took another turn recently when Clinton criticized the president’s foreign policy. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports there is renewed attention on the Clinton-Obama relationship as Hillary Clinton considers running for
Video

Video Iran Looks to Maintain Influence in Baghdad With New Shia PM

Washington and Tehran share the goal of stopping Syrian-based militants in Iraq. But experts say it's Iran, not the United States, that will most influence how the new government in Baghdad approaches internal reforms and the war in Syria. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns has the story.

AppleAndroid