News / Health

Nigeria Polio Cases Drop 50 Percent in 2013

Map of Africa showing occurrence of polio in 1988 and 2012Map of Africa showing occurrence of polio in 1988 and 2012
x
Map of Africa showing occurrence of polio in 1988 and 2012
Map of Africa showing occurrence of polio in 1988 and 2012
Heather Murdock
Nigeria is one of just a few countries where children are still at risk of paralysis or death from polio.  The government and aid organizations are working furiously to vaccinate as many children as possible.  But as World Polio Day arrives this Friday, the country's worst-hit regions remain inaccessible to health care workers, and adult victims find little relief from crushing poverty.   

At this busy street corner in the Nigerian capital, 20-year-old Mohammad moves from car to car, putting his hand out for money.  His legs are shrunken and useless, so he sits on his homemade wooden skateboard and pushes himself through traffic with his hands.
 
He wears flip-flops on his hands to protect them as he lifts himself onto the curb.
 
Mohammad says he was four when he fell sick and lost the use of his legs.  By fourteen, his family couldn’t support him anymore, so he moved from northern Nigeria to the capital.  He’s never been to a doctor and he’s never heard of polio.
 
But health officials here say young men like Mohammad, who can be found on street corners across the country, are nearly all victims of polio -- a sometimes fatal but preventable disease that was wiped out in the Western hemisphere in the 1990s.
 
Nigeria has come a long way against polio since Mohammad was a child and the country has had only 49 cases so far this year --- half the number from the same period in 2012.  
 
​However, Kemi Lawanson, the national program coordinator for Rotary International PolioPlus in Nigeria, says for any victim, the disease is devastating.  

“When a child has polio and it is actually detected, or if it’s not detected early -- by the time the polio virus hits the child, especially under five… it cripples the child.  And it’s a lifelong crippling effect," said Lawanson.   
 
The Nigerian government and a host of aid organizations are trying to vaccinate as many children as possible.  But Lawanson says sometimes, convincing parents that a vaccination will protect children is difficult.

“In some parts of the endemic states, there is this strong belief that the polio vaccine, the oral polio vaccine causes infertility in their girls," said Lawanson. "As a result of which they don’t want to go for it. They worry it’s a risk to them."
 
The ‘endemic states’ Lawanson mentions are all in the north, where insurgents have terrorized the population since 2009.  
 
A health worker (R) vaccinates a child at a public health center where children are being vaccinated against polio in Kano, northern Nigerian, on February 13, 2013.A health worker (R) vaccinates a child at a public health center where children are being vaccinated against polio in Kano, northern Nigerian, on February 13, 2013.
x
A health worker (R) vaccinates a child at a public health center where children are being vaccinated against polio in Kano, northern Nigerian, on February 13, 2013.
A health worker (R) vaccinates a child at a public health center where children are being vaccinated against polio in Kano, northern Nigerian, on February 13, 2013.
Early this year, nine polio vaccinators were slaughtered in the northern state of Kano.  The Global Polio Eradication Initiative says vaccinators have no access to children in Borno state, the heart of the insurgency.
 
Last year, the only countries to report polio cases were Nigeria, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Chad, but so far this year, there have been victims in four other countries. 

The hardest hit is Somalia, with more than half of the world’s 296 cases reported this year.
 
Despite that nearly doubling of polio cases worldwide, Lawanson says Nigeria is still on track to eradicate the disease from the country by 2015.  She said aid workers are working with local leaders to encourage vaccination and meeting refugees as they flee dangerous but inaccessible areas.

But Mohammad said for him and his friend Jamilu, another victim, no help is available.  In fact, Jamilu said, if someone offered him an operation to fix his legs, he would decline.

Jamilu said if someone gave him money he wouldn’t use it to pay for a doctor, but to open a shop to sell incense and other accessories.  
 
Mohammad and Jamilu said they didn’t know that major aid organizations are pouring billions of dollars into eradication efforts to prevent other children from suffering their fate.  
 
But if they are giving money away, Jamilu said, for only about $1,000 he could open a shop and stop begging on the streets.

You May Like

Video VOA ‘Town Hall’ Shines Light on Ebola Crisis

Experts call for greater speed in identification and treatment of deadly disease More

UN Rights Commission Investigates Eritrea

Three-member commission will start collecting first-hand information from victims and other witnesses in Switzerland and Italy next week More

Funding Program Helps Extremely Poor in Ghana

Broad objective for Ghana's social cash transfer program is to lessen the impact of poverty on the most vulnerable people, elderly, orphans, those with disabilities More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concernsi
X
November 19, 2014 11:39 PM
The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Mexico Protests Escalate Over Disappearances

Protests in Mexico over 43 students missing since September continue to escalate, reflecting growing anger among Mexicans about a political system they view as corrupt, and increasingly tainted by the drug trade. Mounting outrage over the disappearances is now focused on the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, accused of not doing enough to end insecurity in the country. More from VOA's Victoria Macchi.
Video

Video US Senate Votes Down Controversial Oil Pipeline - For Now

The U.S. Senate has rejected construction of a controversial pipeline to transport Canadian oil to American refineries. The $5 billion project still could be approved next year, but it faces a possible veto by President Barack Obama. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the pipeline has exposed deep divisions in Congress about America’s energy future.
Video

Video Can Minsk Cease-fire Agreement Hold?

Growing tensions between government troops and separatists in eastern Ukraine further threaten a cease-fire agreement reached two months ago in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Critics of U.S. policy in Ukraine say it is time the Obama administration gives up on that much-violated cease-fire and moves toward a new deal with Russia. VOA's Scott Stearns has more.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Ferguson Church Grapples with Race Relations

Many white residents of Ferguson, Missouri, say they chose to live there because of the American Midwest community's diversity. So, they were shocked when a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager in August – and shaken by the resulting protests and violence. Some local churches are leading conversations on how to go forward. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports.
Video

Video What Jon Stewart Learned About Iran From 'Rosewater'

Jon Stewart, host of the satirical news program "The Daily Show" talks with Saman Arbabi of Voice of America's Persian service about Stewart's directorial debut, "Rosewater."
Video

Video Lebanese Winemakers Thrive Despite War Next Door

In some of the most volatile parts of Lebanon, where a constant flow of refugees crosses the border from Syria, one industry continues to flourish against the odds. Lebanese winemakers say after surviving a brutal civil war in the 1970s and 80s, they can survive anything. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon.
Video

Video China's Rise Closely Watched

China’s role as APEC host this week allowed a rare opportunity for Beijing to showcase its vision for the global economy and the region. But as China’s stature grows, so have tensions with other countries, including the United States. VOA’s Bill Ide in Beijing reports on how China’s rise as a global power is seen among Chinese and Americans.

All About America

AppleAndroid