News / Africa

Nigeria Violence Halts Anti-Polio Program

Volunteers administer a polio vaccine to a child in Kaduna, Nigeria.
Volunteers administer a polio vaccine to a child in Kaduna, Nigeria.
Heather Murdock
Nearly a month after nine health workers in Nigeria were slaughtered as they prepared to administer polio vaccinations, the polio eradication program remains at a standstill in Kano, a state health officials call the epicenter of the disease.  

Officials say other polio vaccination programs in Nigeria are operating and they are working to beef up security to assure hundreds of health workers it is safe again to give vaccinations.   

At a church in the Nigerian capital, residents of northern Nigeria tell horror stories about how they survived militant attacks in their hometowns, and how others did not. 

Pastor Sarana Chinda, from Kano state, says one of the many sad results of insecurity is that children in Kano are no longer getting vaccinated for polio, a deadly, contagious disease that has been wiped off most of the planet.

This year, the only new cases that have been reported so far are in Nigeria, Afghanistan and Pakistan, three countries in the throes of security crises involving Islamist militant groups known to preach against polio vaccinations, saying they are part of a Western plot to sterilize Muslims.

In February, nine women were shot outside a polio center in Nigeria as they prepared to go from house to house vaccinating children. Chinda says local polio workers no longer operate in public, if at all.

“They can’t go round because if they go, they will kill them,” Chinda says.

Health officials say the suspension of the Kano immunization program is a temporary measure while they increase security and convince vaccinators they will be safe.

Rotary International District Governor Felix Ayo Obadan expects vaccinators in Kano to be back on the job in the coming weeks.

“They are now addressing the problem of the insecurity and granting assurances to the health workers that they will be protected in their normal routine job,” Obadan says, adding that eradicating polio is not just about protecting Nigerians, it's about protecting the world. “It’s an infectious disease. If there is one polio case anywhere in the world, the rest of the world is in danger.”

Other health workers say its not just polio prevention that has been impacted by new security threats in Nigeria. Fourteen foreigners are missing after being kidnapped by Islamist militant groups last month.

Also, Doctors Without Borders says it has withdrawn some of its staff from the north, a move Nigeria mission leader Ivan Gayton says could reduce the quality of care for patients with potentially deadly diseases like malaria and cholera.

He says the only way aid workers can stay safe is to convince all parties their only purpose is to provide health care.

“We just want people to recognize, everyone, everywhere to recognize, health care workers are apart," Gayton says. "We are not involved in the religious debate or the political debate or what they might call the clash of civilizations between the West and the Islamic World. We’re not part of that. We’re neutral.”

Sometimes called the Nigerian Taliban, Nigeria’s most infamous Islamist militant group is known as Boko Haram, a name that means “Western education is a sin.” Human Rights Watch says the group has killed more than 1,500 people since it began violent operations in 2009.

You May Like

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

Video Secret Service Chief Under Fire for White House Security Breach

Julia Pierson faces tough questions from lawmakers after recent intrusion at White House, says: 'It is clear that our security plan was not executed properly' More

Frustrated, Liberian Students Want Ebola Fight Role

Thousands have volunteered to go to counties, rural villages to talk to people in their language about deadly virus 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.
Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihadi
X
Mahi Ramakrishnan
September 30, 2014 2:16 PM
Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid