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

Ukraine Purges Interior Ministry Leadership With Pro-Russian Ties

Interior Minister Avakov says 91 people 'in positions of leadership' have been fired, including 8 generals found to have links to past pro-Moscow governments More

US Airlines Point to Additional Problems of any Ebola Travel Ban

Airline officials note that even under travel ban, they may not be able to determine where passenger set out from, as there are no direct flights from Liberia, Guinea or Sierra Leone More

Nigerian President to Seek Another Term

Goodluck Jonathan has faced intense criticism for failing to stop Boko Haram militants More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid