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 Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land In French Port

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching 'Fortress Europe' More

Video Westgate Mall Attack Survivors Confront Painful Memories

On anniversary of terror attack, survivors discuss how they have coped with trauma they experienced that day More

New Hints That Dark Matter Exists

New evidence from International Space Station hints at existence of dark matter and dark energy More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calaisi
X
Lisa Bryant
September 19, 2014 5:04 PM
The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video CERN Accelerator Back in Business

The long upgrade of the Large Hadron Collider is over. The scientific instrument responsible for the discovery of the Higgs boson -- the so-called "God particle" -- is being brought up to speed in time for this month's 60th anniversary of the European Organization for Nuclear Research, known by its French acronym CERN. Physicists hope the accelerator will help them uncover more secrets about the origins of the universe. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctions

A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Belgian Researchers Discover Way to Block Cancer Metastasis

Cancer remains one of the deadliest diseases, despite many new methods to combat it. Modern medicine has treatments to prevent the growth of primary tumor cells. But most cancer deaths are caused by metastasis, the stage when primary tumor cells change and move to other parts of the body. A team of Belgian scientists says it has found a way to prevent that process. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Mogadishu's Flood of Foreign Workers Leaves Somalis Out of Work

Unemployment and conflict has forced many young Somalians out of the country in search of a better life. But a newfound stability in the once-lawless nation has created hope — and jobs — which, some say, are too often being filled by foreigners. Abdulaziz Billow reports from Mogadishu.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid